Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
-Jesus (Matthew 7:1)
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
-1 Corinthians 13:7
A few months ago I was curious if we could find a way to baptize people right at the school we meet at. I had heard that some churches have used birthing pools, so out of curiousity I asked Melanie, our Administrative guru, to price a few out on Amazon. So she did. Little did we know that this simple search would convince the interwebs that MELANIE WAS GOING TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY!!! But it did. Amazon saw that she was searching for birthing pools. They immediately came to the conclusion that the only explanation was a baby on the way. And thanks to Amazon’s search algorithms, Melanie was being offered every variety of baby accessory every time she opened up an internet browser for quite some time. I thought it was hilarious. Melanie, not so much. Now I’m considering asking her to to price out some adult diapers just in case I, uh, need a sermon illustration sometime....
All it takes is seeing one action, and we’re sure we’ve got the whole story, aren’t we?
All it takes is hearing one comment, and we’ve got the other person pegged as “one of those,” don’t we?
We don’t have to ask why. We know why. IT'S OBVIOUS.
She didn’t call me back. She must not care about me.
He raised his voice at his kid today. He must be a terrible parent.
I heard she’s a conservative/liberal. That means she must hate _____________.
It’s so tempting to assume we know the motives of the people around us. It’s tempting to see a part of a story and fill in the rest with our critical and fearful imaginations. But the reality is that we don’t know the whole story… and when we don’t know, we need to be really careful about what we think we know. It can hurt others, and it can turn our own spirits sour.
The extraordinary Mr. Rogers was once quoted saying, “there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you've heard their story.”
I believe he’s right. Walking around assigning motives to people’s actions usually accomplishes one thing: It makes it harder for us to love them.
If you’re going to make assumptions about others, I invite you try this:
Make the most gracious assumption you can possibly make about others. It will protect you from unfairly passing judgment, and it will give you grace to treat each person with love.
I’ll never forget a conversation in Ecuador with a missionary who shared that the best way he had learned to love people was to walk around with an awareness that each person he met that day might be having the worst day of their life.
Would it change how you viewed someone if you imagined that they were having a terrible day? What if that person who just cut you off in traffic was absent-minded because their child was sick and they were heading to the hospital? What if that coworker that drives you crazy has no one that treats him with kindness in his life?
What if we made gracious assumptions about others, and refused to critically decide the state or their hearts?
Jesus made these profound statements that seemed to suggest that our ability to receive God’s love and grace would only be as robust as our ability to offer it to others. We should pay attention to that.
You may be tempted to join Amazon and think you know exactly what’s underneath the surface of someone else this week. But if you'd rather not have someone else assume they know your whole story, I invite you to extend the same grace to them. And maybe you’ll even hear the Spirit’s nudge to invite them out for coffee! A story heard is a life understood.
Jesus, teach me compassion and grace toward others.