Focus: Giving people the benefit of the doubt
Romans 2:1 (NKJV) You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
There are a lot of scriptures in the Bible about judging others…probably because it’s a major problem in the world. Romans 2:1 makes a very good point. So often, when people point the finger at someone else about a particular kind of weakness, the person making the judgment frequently ends up sooner or later, making the same kind of error. Remember the old quote, ‘When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you.’
I have a cute story about something that might help illustrate this point. Not having any children until I was 36, I had a long time to observe other people’s child rearing abilities and time enough to make some pretty strong decisions about how my child would behave—when I had one. For instance, I was sure my child would never be a picky eater, and I would never cater to her attitude if she didn’t want to eat something I had set before her. Well, that theory quickly failed, and I was probably worse than any mother ever, when it came to fussing over feeding my little darling exactly what she liked and falling all over myself to try to provide it in creative ways that would impress her.
I was also determined my daughter would have excellent manners and always be polite. So, when we went to church, I always dressed her up and she sat like a little lady in ‘big people’s church’ instead of going to the nursery and risking the possibly of coming in contact with germs. When Stephanie was five, we had our second little angel and my time and attention were cut in half.
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One Sunday, we were visiting the church of some friends, when the pastor called all of the youngsters up to the front of the sanctuary for the children’s sermon. We were sitting in one of the back rows, just in case our little one made any noise. I couldn’t stand it when other people allowed their babies to wail during a service and would certainly never allow my child to do something like that.
So, when the pastor called the children up to the front, Stephanie anxiously looked up at me. She wanted to go with the rest of the children. I glanced up to the pulpit area and saw quite a few children gathering. As my attention was focused in that direction, I saw a young boy—probably eight or nine years old—catapult over the kneeling rail. The eyeballs in my mind automatically rolled to the back of my head and I thought, ‘How rude! Who would ever let their child do such a thing. It’s easy to see he’s never had any proper training about how to behave in church.’
When I glanced back at Stephanie, who looked up at me with a pleading expression in her eyes, I sighed and whispered,”Okay, you can go.” No sooner had I given her my permission, than she ran down the aisle to the front of the church and, you guessed it—tried to catapult over the kneeling rail…except she was younger and shorter than the boy who had hopped over the rail with ease. She got stuck halfway over the rail, and the pastor had to help her get off.
I was properly put in my place by the Lord that day, as several people cleared their throats and wondered whose child that was and why she didn’t know how to behave in church. ‘Visitors…hmph!’
You probably have some stories of your own about times when you had to be humbled over something, too. Human nature is so quick to judge. Most people have to learn temperance the hard way—through personal experience.
These days, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. When someone does something I don’t agree with, I try not to make a big deal about it. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination—and neither is anyone else. We all have our flaws and most of us don’t intentionally set out to do something questionable.
Temperance isn’t something that is only mastered by people who are ‘older.’ There are plenty of older people who don’t have an ounce of it—and there are some little children who have an amazing amount of consideration for others.
The old saying, “Never say never”, is so true. The temptation you think you’d never fall for—that you can’t imagine how anyone could ever give in to, might be just the thing that catches you off guard someday. So, beware. Be careful what you think about other people and their behavior. Don’t set yourself up for a test you might not want to take.
Two pastors who were judgmental toward me at one time, because I was divorced—later ended up having to go through divorces of their own. I didn’t put some kind of a curse on them because of their attitudes—but God allowed them to be tested in the same area where they had been critical.
Declaration: I will find new strength by being careful not to criticize others—so I hopefully won’t have to be tested in the same way.
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All NEW STRENGTH posts are Copyright by Christina Cook Lee 2012. Please request permission to re-post or re-blog.