While sitting in a class (which I wasn’t super excited about in the first place) I found my critical heart becoming increasingly nit-picky. It began with the subject matter. Before the speaker even opened his mouth, I had attitude. As he began to teach I found him as well as his presentation to be distasteful. Soon I found myself getting up to leave the room. I needed a break to regroup and regain some perspective before I could head back in. What I began to realize was, that while critical thinking is vital to true discernment, a critical heart suppresses the Holy Spirit.
My personal preferences are a good servant but a lousy master. They can serve me well but when I become a slave to my preferences, I serve no one else.
- My way is right
- My point of view is right
- My perceptions are right
- My thoughts are right
- My counsel is right
If I believe my methods/preferences are right then, by default, the methods/preferences of others are wrong. I am setting myself up as the standard by which all other things should follow. It’s a throne position. I am exalted in the process of expressing my preferences as truth at the expense of others.
When I am controlled by the narrow view of my personal preferences, there is no room for the way of others or their viewpoints, perceptions, thoughts or counsel. They cannot be heard in my presence. I become the authority. My way becomes the standard by which all things should be perceived, thought of, stated, done and counseled. I am teaching others my way while I myself remain unteachable. I do not hear others because I do not listen to others, therefore I cannot learn from others.
It’s a “my way” approach to even the most menial of tasks which are meaningless to the big picture. Process, not people, is first.
Have you ever found yourself grumbly in everyday circumstances such as:
- Folding laundry – Do you refold or instruct others how to fold laundry. Even worse, when you are helping someone else fold their laundry, do you fold their way or your way?
- Loading the dishwasher – Ever reorganized the dishwasher?
- Making the Bed – Which side of the top sheet faces the bottom sheet?
- Toilet Paper – Under or over?- Have you ever changed the roll position…at someone else’s house?
- Bible Study – Morning, noon, night? And with what method? Inductive, Deductive, SOAP?
The answer is probably “yes” for most of us. Are any of these things a big deal in light of eternity? I think most of us would say an emphatic “no.” And yet, when someone disrespects/disorders our preferences, how do we respond? Does emotion well up inside of us? When we believe that our ways should be everyone’s ways we have lost site and control of our preferences. They rule us, we do not rule them. There is no freedom to waiver from them. We must now adhere to them and enforce them upon others. In a sense, we are saying, “This is the way, follow me. If you do not adhere to my way, I will correct you.” There is a rightness/wrongness but not a righteousness to this way of thinking. We are in bondage and we put others in bondage to our way of thinking and doing.
So often we measure the good, sufficiency, adequacy or maybe a better word is value of something based on our own preferences. We evaluate situations and circumstances as if everything about it revolves around us. Food, temperature, hotels, restaurants, smells, neighborhoods, communities, schools, classes, people, teachers, conferences etc., are assessed by our own personal palate. It seems our ability to enjoy and appreciate something is based on what we like or dislike. How many times have you gone to a restaurant with rave reviews only to be disappointed? Your personal preferences were not met there. We cannot fathom how people considered it a good place to have dinner!
So, what’s the difference between a fair assessment and a biased one; an assessment that is just or one that is critical because of personal preference? What is real and what is preferred? How do we determine if something is good?
We must sort through our own personal preferences, as one sorts through puzzle pieces; by color or flat-edged pieces. A good puzzle worker sorts first. How often do our personal preferences get confused with the really important facts? Before we assess a speaker, program or a class, we must ask ourselves, “What is my measuring stick of value? Do I have a gospel view?”
The gospel is the picture of self-sacrificing love in action. For God so loved the world… it was good for the world that Jesus should suffer for it’s sin but not so comfortable for Jesus. It was greater love.
To assess fairly we must think beyond what we like to what is real, whole-group and gospel centered. We must have a wide lens view that takes in the whole horizon. We must see the big picture and give grace to minor details that are not important in fundamental ways. How would it change the way we evaluate situations, tasks, people, speakers etc. if we saw them in light of the gospel rather than ourselves? What if, instead of being critical, we look for the good?
I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to sin. Matthew 18:15 is very clear about what to do if we see a brother in sin, as is 2 Corinthians 10:5 as it addresses arguments and lofty opinions or anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.
When we align our personal preferences with the Word of God and measure them by the call to love one another, we are not only God honoring vertically but we are God honoring horizontally.
Philippians 2:3-8 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Do nothing from selfish ambition but in humility, look around you. People are wounded and struggling to survive one day at a time. Can we find enjoyment in what others enjoy? Can we give an honest evaluation of a situation based on the needs of others being met? Can we remember to measure goodness based on what God says is good and not on our own comfort, preference or level of needs being met?
Jesus is the Son and all things revolve around Him. It is through Him that all things are held together. His ways are higher. His thoughts are for all as well as the individual. He humbled himself by taking on the form of a servant for a lost and dying world of which we are just one of many in that category.
I can have preferences, but my personal preferences are not a measuring stick I can use to determine right or good. My unit of measure must be higher than myself. When I measure myself against a Holy God, I am humbled and brought low. His glory is all I see. This is true and right perspective.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher that your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God’s thoughts and words for us are found between the front and back covers of the Bible. He has established a true and better way, as His ways are perfect. Let us choose to be wise thinkers in our assessments and use the Word of God as our system of measure.
Freedom from the bonds of our personal preferences is a gift to those around us!