“I knew he was too proud to take criticism,” thought Anne, “and now I have proof!”
On the previous Sunday, Anne had dropped a prayer card in the offering plate asking her pastor to stop in and pray with her when she went to the hospital for some minor surgery. When he failed to come by, she called the church secretary and learned that her pastor had already been to the hospital that day to see another church member.
“So, he has no excuse!” she thought. “He was in the building and knew I needed his support, but still he ignored me. He’s resented me ever since I told him his sermons lack practical application. Now he’s getting back at me by ignoring my spiritual needs. And he calls himself a shepherd!”
After brooding over his rejection for three days, Anne sat down Saturday evening and wrote a letter confronting her pastor about his pride, defensiveness and hypocrisy. As she sealed the envelope, she could not help thinking about the conviction he would feel when he opened his mail.
The moment she walked into church the next morning, one of the deacons hurried over to her. “Anne, I need to apologize to you. When I took the prayer cards out of the offering plates last week, I accidentally left your card with some pledge cards. I didn’t notice my mistake until last night when I was totaling the pledges. I am so sorry I didn’t get your request to the pastor!” Before Anne could reply to the deacon, her pastor approached her with a warm smile. “Anne, I was thinking about your comment about practical application as I finished my sermon yesterday. I hope you notice the difference in today’s message.”
Anne was speechless. All she could think about was the letter she had just dropped in a mailbox three blocks from church. (Ken Sande, Peacemaker Ministries)
Been there? I think we all have, because it is so easy to judge what we cannot see, the heart, based on what we can see, the actions. I have done it many times. I remember the time years ago when I saw our dog’s food bowl turned over and the contents spilled all over the front porch. In my anger and without clear evidence, I disciplined one of my sons for it…only to find out later that the mess-maker was actually the dog. Ouch. I was the one who needed the discipline, which the Lord so kindly administered as I quickly and sincerely asked my son for forgiveness.
That doesn’t mean that there are not times when one of the children really did make a mess or tell a lie or take something without asking. Judgment and discernment are necessary and we use them every single day. The issue then is how we judge. We are so prone to looking for and expecting the worst. We employ the “shoot first, ask questions later” method. We collect debts on someone who has offended us and wait for the right moment to let them have it.
There is a better way, and Jesus said it simply: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” This means that we will look for the best in others. We will ask questions long before we reach for our guns. We will refuse to keep a list of grievances. We will take the first step towards peace.
Just like Jesus did for us.