Pray First, Criticize Second

In the target-rich environment that is the Trump Presidency, and as the honeymoon with our charming Prime Minister fades, it is easy to lapse into a posture of constant criticism. There is so much to be upset about!

Meanwhile, the Christian world has its own controversies and scandals, of course—most recently, the removal of the senior administrators at a leading Christian college in Chicago. There is so much to be upset about!

The Bible doesn’t discourage criticism, particularly of leaders. In fact, much of the Old Testament is devoted to prophetic warnings to political and religious leaders of God’s people to shape up or face certain and awful judgment. The sins of such leaders are listed and denounced both specifically and graphically. There is so much to be upset about!

I have offered elsewhere on my website defense of my own public criticism of others, and particularly of fellow Christians. Naming things for what they are is part of telling the truth. And telling the truth to power, and about power, is a deeply Biblical thing to do.

But so is love.

So is making sure that I treat these neighbours I am criticizing truly as neighbours, as fellow strugglers and sinners, as those created in the very image of God, for whom I have a sacred responsibility to pray and serve.

Indeed, I had better not criticize someone until I have prayed for him. I had better not criticize someone unless I am confident, having prayerfully considered the situation, that this criticism will maximize shalom, will accomplish the most good…for everyone involved. I must be calmly convinced that the absence of this criticism will result in a worse situation than if I keep silent.

“First of all, then,” says the apostle Paul to his student, Timothy, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,

who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:1-3).