Evangelist Billy Graham has explained why God warns against thinking bad thoughts about others and offered tips for crowding out such thoughts when they arise.
In a Q&A published Monday by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham was asked: "I know we're not supposed to have bad thoughts about others, but to be honest, what difference does it make? As long as I keep my thoughts to myself, they don't really hurt anyone, do they?"
The 98-year-old founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association first explained that harboring bad thoughts about other people do, in fact, always hurt someone.
"It hurts you," he said "The reason is because they aren't just innocent thoughts. Behind them are other emotions, such as anger, jealousy, envy, or pride-any one of which will harm you."
Throughout the Bible, God warns about the danger of evil or prideful thoughts, and such warnings should be taken seriously, said Graham
"Why are bad thoughts about others so harmful? One reason is because they not only poison our souls and distort our personalities, but they also cut us off from others. Instead of loving them and seeking to help them, we turn our backs on them-which is wrong," Graham said.
One way to crowd out such thoughts is with prayer, the evangelist contended.
"Commit your life-including your mind-to Jesus Christ," he advised. "Remember: you may have bad thoughts about others-but He has no bad thoughts about you! He loves you with an everlasting love-a love so great that He was willing to give His life for your salvation. Open your heart and life to Him today. Then ask Him to cleanse your mind and heart of evil thoughts, and to help you love others the same way He loves you. And if bad thoughts arise, crowd them out with prayer."
In an earlier blog post, Graham said that another way to help purify our thoughts is by safeguarding our minds against anything corrupt, like inappropriate TV shows, movies, or books.
"God wants our thoughts to be pure," he said. "One way to safeguard our minds is to avoid anything that fills our minds with corrupt or evil thoughts. In addition, we need to fill our minds with that which is good, through prayer and the study of God's Word, the Bible.
"Don't just empty your mind of evil thoughts, but fill it with good thoughts - in other words, with God's truth as it is found in the Bible," he said. "Make the Bible part of your life every day, and memorize as much of it as you can. Then when evil thoughts come into your mind, immediately turn your attention to God's promises and His love for you."