It works in politics
During the 2012 Republican primary Newt Gingrich won the day in South Carolina debate with a deftly and forcefully worded attack on John King, in particular, and the media in general. Many credit that one comment for his commanding victory in the GOP primary contest in that state. It works in politics. Wish we had heard more of that kind of clear thinking from our two national candidates.
Trouble is that Christians adopt that approach in seeking to defend the faith and to persuade unbelievers to embrace it. A long, long time ago a man named Tertulian (c. 160-225) made the following observation. "'Look,' they say, 'how they love one another' (for they themselves hate one another); 'and how they are ready to die for each other' (for they themselves are readier to kill each other)." He referred to the "media buzz" gone viral about Christians in 2nd century Rome. (A little anachronism never hurts.)
Like it or not, the world pays more attention to how we handle each other than to what we say; and to how we love those who disagree with us than to how we defend ourselves. Yes, there are other situations that offer the opportunity to show the transforming power of the gospel on our hearts, but none so powerful as when we truly care for each other.
I've often sat by the bed of a dieing Christian and marveled at the peace and joy that shows through. If I could only broadcast to the world what I'm witnessing many would embrace the Savior.
When Christians pray
That too is a window into the gospel. I don't mean written liturgical prayers recited with perfect diction and no heart. No, listen in on a godly man or woman struggling honestly with the Lord. Jesus prayed that way at Gethsemane. David and other psalmist get up front and personal with God.
There are also some contemporary Christians that model for us what it means to struggle honestly with God. Yes, "struggle" is the best descriptor for prayer.
A Prayer for Grace to Be Less Critical and More Compassionate
That is Scotty Smith's title for the prayer he posted on his website on January 21,1012. Below is the prayer. Notice that he doesn't speak past God as we often do in human conversation. He responds directly to what God has said. All effective prayer begins with good listening
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Rom. 2:1-4
Heavenly Father, much more than greater discipline and much more than increased knowledge, I need your Spirit’s work in my heart. This is just one more Scripture reminding me of how much I need the gospel. The call to love others as Jesus loves me keeps driving me to you for more grace and for the power of the gospel. I readily acknowledge that I cannot change myself.
Meditating on this passage has convicted me about being way too selective in my love for broken people. I’m a selective lover. I’m not an equal opportunity dispenser of your compassion. It’s not difficult for me to shower the riches of your kindness, tolerance, and patience on people whose sins and struggles are like mine. But I’m self-righteous and judgmental toward people who deal with brokenness and temptations different than mine. Though understandable, it’s not excusable. Have mercy on me, for the extending of your mercy through me. No one has appointed me to be judge and jury. I’m not the boss or king of anybody. Forgive me when I take up a scorecard of criticism rather than a towel of servanthood.
Thank you for being such a kind and patient God. May your non-stop kindness lead me repent of my sin more quickly and more deeply. When I leak passive-aggressive anger, it’s no more pleasing to you than those who are more direct and loud in expressing their frustrations and disappointments. My self-righteous arrogance is just as offensive to you as the cynicism of the most secular journalist. My work-a-holism and busyness are just as much of a drug as the alcohol and pornography of others. My heterosexual lust is just as broken as who struggle with homosexual temptations and entanglements. Father, these are just a few things that come to mind. I know there’s more.
Lord Jesus, you willingly took the judgment I deserve on the cross—the fullness of God’s righteous wrath. And now you love me with the fullness of compassion, acceptance, and delight. The greatest non sequitur in life is when I show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience. I am a mere human, greatly beloved, but merely a man utterly dependent upon your mercy and grace. Deepen my repentance and deepen my compassion for fellow broken sinners. So very Amen I pray, in your righteous and loving name.
Where are you
I embrace the historic Christian faith
The cynical will always find fault and a reason to continue in their unbelief. But I believe there are millions of sincere and honest people who have yet to embrace Christ. Perhaps you've never heard the gospel; or, having heard, you've been hurt or disappointed by some who embrace it. If you are this kind of a person, I'm really eager to hear your response to this prayer.
By the way, I've never met Scotty Smith. My cousin put me on to his daily prayers and they've become a staple of my spiritual diet. There's no monetary or other gain for me in your going to his website.