A letter to the editor in a national newspaper recently caught my attention. The author brought up a topic that is particularly relevant in light of the debates in today’s society: criticism of our politicians and of community leaders in general.
The recurrent theme in the letter was the question: What about me? Am I doing the same things that I criticize others for doing?
The article made me think about my own life. It is so easy it is to have critical thoughts and comments about the decisions people around me make, and how they act. This tendency is deeply rooted in me, and not a day passes that I am not tempted with thoughts like that.
In the Bible, Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, a young and zealous man who wanted to serve God wholeheartedly. He wrote that he should take heed to himself and to the doctrine, and continue in them; that by doing this he would save both yourself and those who heard him. (1 Timothy 4:16) I had often thought about this little sentence, but now it suddenly took on new meaning!
It is only my own life that I can actually do something about
It must mean that both Paul and Timothy recognized the human tendency to judge and criticize others. That is precisely why Paul saw in this an incredible opportunity to instead direct the focus toward what both he and Timothy could actually do something about – their own lives, own thoughts, and own choices! This needed to be done in accordance with God’s Word and how God wanted them to be.
For me, this short letter to the editor became a springboard to thinking about Paul and Timothy, who almost 2000 years ago had the same kinds of temptations we experience today – temptations to be critical and point the finger, and not least toward people who bear responsibility for things we know very little about. Think how effective and constructive it would be if all the energy used negatively for criticism and judging other people, could instead be used positively and constructively ! – To do something good, say something good, encourage, strengthen, pray for others.
Seize the opportunity!
Is that possible then, you could ask? I am just a human being. I can’t really live like that, can I? If you had asked Paul, I think you would have been given the same challenge Timothy got: to take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Take heed to yourself and to God’s word! Ask God for power to overcome all your own human tendencies and negative thoughts.
Paul believed and experienced that God’s word was living, and had power to revolutionize his life and way of thinking, so that he became completely renewed. Thereby he could live in harmony with God and His word. He could work on his own life every day, and find new areas where he could grow to become more and more like Jesus. We also have these possibilities today! Will you seize the opportunity?