Ninety Nine — Jessica Peterson

Today’s Bible reading  and an excerpt

Read Romans 14:1-13

So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

More thoughts for meditation

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 27-28:

“God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man [sic] who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own laws, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.”

Bonhoeffer has an idea of “visionaries” that does not include our sense of group discernment or revelation. We long for visions and dreaming, but we dread coercion and self-centeredness. Judgment that comes in the disguise of vision is deadly! Whatever leads us must come from love and listening, not from personal desire and lust for power.

Suggestions for action

Pray:  God, please save me from my misshapen ideals that cause me to criticize others and eventually to criticize You and myself. May I bow only to You and align myself with you today.

Make a list as you go through your day of the things you think or say in criticism of others. The driver ahead of you on the expressway, the tired mother interacting harshly with her child on the sidewalk, someone in your cell who wants to tell a long story, a roommate who leaves their dirty dishes behind. Look at your list, and ask God to help you see what is under your irritation. Get personal with God about the longings and fears (and yes, sins) that linger there hidden in your irritation. Pray for the person who irritated you. Let the Spirit of God lift you out of the despair that criticism creates inside us.