What If We Believed The Best?
“I really try and believe the best about a person.”
Have you ever heard someone say this?
I love this sentiment. Giving everyone you meet the benefit of the doubt no matter what your knee-jerk reaction is or if their action or reaction matches the one you would have in a similar circumstance. I love it because it would be an incredible way to live and it would make an even more incredible world to live in if more people took this approach.
The problem is I know almost none who actually “believes the best” about the people that are closest to them. In fact, what I’m finding more and more is that most people actually assume the worst. Not just that, the closer they are to a person the worse their assumptions actually are. One of the added benefits of being a pastor is that most people think they should share these assumptions with me so that I can confirm how morally bankrupt their friend or family member’s most recent decision truly is.
Here’s the funny thing, It’s generally not that bad, and more often than not it’s not bad at all. Believe me, I would know, I’m a “man of the cloth.”
Maybe you’re reading this and assuming the worst about someone you know — maybe even me (I mean why would this pastor write this if he didn’t have some ulterior motive? I do. I’d like us to love one another — it’s how the rest of the world knows we belong to Jesus). Maybe somehow reading this has caused you to realize that you’re pinning sinister motives on the people who are closest to you and you’re starting to see that this line of thinking is actually having a negative impact on your relationships and on your own heart. Maybe you’re beginning to understand this isn’t a good way to live your life but you’re not entirely sure what to do next. I’d love to suggest three things you could do.
First, ask Jesus to give you His heart for those around you. It’s humbling to think of how Jesus sees you and I when we come to a proper understanding of who we really are. Paul tells us… “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5.6–8]. In verse 10 Paul says we were God’s enemies, not because God called us enemies but because we self-declared it. Ungodly. Powerless. Sinners. Enemies. That’s you and me— but how does Jesus see us, even in that state, when He looks at us? He LOVES us. He thinks we’re willing to DIE for. Obviously, Jesus doesn’t want us to just accept bad behavior or sinful living but I think He would want us to start with love no matter what.
Second, seek to understand. It’s tempting to break out our Jump to Conclusions Mat and take a giant leap but this seldom results in anything good for you, your friend or the future of your relationship. Instead, if you seek first to understand you might, you know, understand. Every person you meet is either in the midst of suffering, is about to enter into some form of suffering or has just walked through some suffering. You never know what is happening or why it’s happening in a person’s life but you can be almost certain that you probably don’t have enough information about a person’s motive if you have not sat down to ask them what they were thinking and what they’re going through.
James says to us “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1.19–20) I wonder, how are your reactions to those around you helping you produce the “righteousness that God desires”?
Finally, remember the job that’s been assigned to you. A long time ago my first boss told me when I was a first-year youth pastor that if I was going to make it as a pastor I needed to learn the difference between “responsible for and responsible to.” Essentially he was saying, you are not responsible for person X, their behavior or decisions. Of course, each person is responsible for themselves but more than that God is actually responsible for that person’s well-being, correction, and direction. You are only responsible to do the thing that God’s called you to do. If you’re a friend you’re responsible to be a friend. If you’re a parent you’re responsible to be a parent. If you’re a brother or sister in Christ you’re responsible to be a brother or sister. That’s all God wants from you. The best part of this is that He actually gives us all we need through the Holy Spirit to do what He’s called us to do. God’s desire isn’t to weigh you down, He wants to free you up.
Take a second and think, where am I believing less than the best about a person close to me? Maybe take it a step further even, ask where am I assuming the worst? Now consider, how that might change if I asked Jesus to give me His heart for that person? What might be different if I sought a better understanding of their situation, actions, reactions or behaviors? How would remembering the job you’re responsible to do change how you feel about the people you’re close to who’s actions you think you’re responsible for?
There’s one byproduct to walking down this road could provide for you. All that time you’ve spent thinking ABOUT this person and how they could be doing what they’re doing could actually be spent WITH this person and you just might find you remember all the reasons you loved them in the first place.