Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24,ESV)
Have you ever assumed something was correct, but that assumption was off the mark? I have—more times than I care to admit. It’s easy to jump to conclusions, but it’s better to confirm the facts.
This incident happened quite a few years ago, but I still laugh when I remember. It’s the story of two people looking at the same situation from different perspectives. One had the facts; one made an assumption.
To put the incident in perspective, my friend spent most of her adult life as a missionary in developing nations. She was not always in the safest of circumstances and had learned to be very cautious. Her visit with me coincided with a church function that required me to be gone quite late that evening. She was home alone, ready for a hot shower and a soft bed after long hours of travel.
Something I took for granted left her shaking with fear. I forgot to explain the quirkiness of my smoke alarm. Whoever installed it had placed it too close to the bathroom door, and a long, steamy shower would set it off with an unnerving shriek. This is where one tired missionary with a different mindset made an assumption.
To her, the smoke alarm sounded like a burglar alarm. After all, it was “the time of night when thieves usually break in.” She locked herself in the bedroom and spent a very long time in fervent prayer. She worried that the thief would gain entry before the police answered the alarm. Eventually, the steam cleared, and the alarm fell silent. I later returned to a quiet house and thought my friend was sleeping peacefully.
Assumptions. My friend filtered the sound of the shrieking alarm through past experiences and concluded “burglar.” Hearing the same sound, I would rightly assume the pesky smoke alarm was malfunctioning again.
Once while at a convention, I saw an old classmate across the way. But that woman on his arm was not his wife! Assumption without fact. I later learned he had a twin brother, and it was the twin and his wife I had seen. What if I had gossiped about what I thought I saw? How many people could I have hurt?
How many times do we make assumptions, and then act based on that assumption, although the truth may be far different? We may assume someone is unfriendly or rude when they may be worrying about a sick child, unpaid bills, or a family situation. That “stuck-up” person may just be a very shy individual waiting to be included.
Author Stephen R. Covey describes it this way:
“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.”
Incorrect assumptions can affect our relationships with others. If we think we are flawed or unlovable, we might mistakenly decide that others believe the same. We may even do this with God. We determine that we are too sinful or not good enough to earn His love. The truth is none of us are “good enough,” but we do not need to earn His love. He gives it freely.
The New Living Translation of John 7:24, our opening verse, says, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”
Lord, help me to “look beneath the surface” rather than judge a situation based on an incorrect assumption. When I make a quick judgment without knowing the facts, I am not being fair to others. Forgive me for the times I may have acted rashly and help me to always seek truth.