How easy it is for human beings to make quick judgments of others on a daily basis! How often do we fail to hear from the perspective of the ones we so easily condemn?
Let me illustrate an example that I will never forget.
In the church where I used to serve, I remember one time just before one of our annual Christmas productions was about to start, the fire department suddenly showed up. Apparently, they had received a phone call from someone in our church indicating that our performances did not meet fire regulations.
The department told us that the beautifully designed and constructed stage needed to have a clearly designated fire exit, complete with a well-lit sign. Thus, in case of fire, the audience would clearly know where to exit (either on the left or the right). Of course, this would completely destroy the ambience of the entire production itself, plus the fact that there were already other designated fire exits in place.
So what was to be done? Immediately, the team set out to find out who called the fire department in the first place. Amazingly, one man came forward saying that he had discussed it with someone else, and that his friend had called the fire department. He, however, would not give up the name of the friend, who remained anonymous.
I will never forget the tension of the moments that ensued. What I witnessed was nothing short of suspicion and displeasure directed towards this one brother. Was there even a friend involved? And what could inspire someone to do that? Was this brother trying to destroy our evangelistic outreach into the community? What were his motivations? Was he trying to get back at someone for something? On and on the accusations went. Unkind words were said.
Looking back however, I now wonder how this man felt, in the midst of all this directed towards him. It was a tense time indeed. I stayed out of it, but to my shame, I too had an inner feeling of distrust towards him.
But then, that began to change.
Over the years, I observed this very same brother’s faithfulness in taking care of the details around our monthly communion service. Since we had multiple services, this was a major task, including the coordination of servers and assigning people to pray for the bread and the cup each time. I watched as this faithful servant worked behind the scenes, receiving almost no recognition, but faithfully discharging his duty.
And God began to speak to me about my attitude.
I still don’t know what happened with that Christmas production, but I did learn something profound. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” It is so easy to accept a bad report of someone without hearing that person’s own perspective. I also remember Christ’s words in Matthew 7:1, which forbid us from judging the other. What Christ meant is that we must refrain from judging people’s internal motivation. None of us can see motivation but God alone.
My attitude toward this man changed dramatically. And with that, was also a renewed commitment to hear someone out before making judgments. So today, let’s take the time to listen, show grace, and be careful about how we judge others.