“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5.

I have been a pastor for a very long time. I have met and talked with or counseled a significant number of people during that time. The one thing I have learned through my daily work as a pastor is this: “There’s always one fact you don’t know that changes the whole story.” That there is something that we may not know, that changes the story and our reactions to it. Proverbs 18:13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Too often, the stories we hear are stark portraits that are clearly black and white. We believe we have a pretty good handle on what is going on. We have the smoking gun. We have all the evidence we need. I have to resist jumping to a conclusion as a means of resolving the situation. Because I know that is not a resolution. So I reserve judgement and quickly replying when I first hear someone’s story, especially if it is critical of the church, me or others. If you want the whole story,  you need to resist the urge to form knee jerk conclusions by slowing down and asking the right questions.

Because then… we hear the other side of the story.

Walking into a department store, I heard a very angry customer virtually screaming at an employee who is visibly angry as well. It was awkward watching those two raise their voices a couple decibels each time they spoke. It was fueling itself so it went on for some time. When people act inappropriately, our first move is to judge them. What’s wrong with them? At least the employee should be more professional. The customer should leave, no matter what the provocation, there was no excuse for what was happening. Then I realized I simply did not have enough information to pass judgement.

We can make easy generalizations about each one of them, and others in our lives. It is easy to make those type of generalizations about people who are far from the heart of God. It is not malicious, we just believe it is common sense. God expects something different. Sometimes, all that God will expect us to do is to listen to the other person with a heart of compassion, and to pray for them. To be understanding and to love them regardless of how things appear or we perceive them. We should pray for the Lord’s wisdom, be sensitive to His Spirit’s leading, so we position ourselves to be used by God to touch and change the lives of others.

It’s not as easy. It takes more time. But listen to both sides of the story. The bible says: “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” (Proverbs 18:17 TLB)

The next time someone tells you their side of the story, before they even finish speaking, pray silently for God’s wisdom. Ask the Lord to help you handle the situation, and to not be quick to judgment. Rather to remember that God loves this person and we should as well.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why is it so easy to judge other people by jumping to conclusions?
  2. What are we really doing when we judge others?
  3. Have you been judged by someone? How did it make you feel to be judged by that person?
  4. Pray and ask God for the wisdom to hear the whole story and react with love and compassion.