Have you ever negatively judged something before you knew the truth? You know, come to an incorrect conclusion based on assumptions? Possibly, I am the only one who does this, but I don’t think so. Years ago, when my husband and I were new to our church and town, we would often go to breakfast on Mondays. Breakfast was the most inexpensive meal to “eat out,” so that became our habit on our day off. On this particular day, a man wearing the “priestly white collar” was sitting at the table across the room from us, with a woman. Since I didn’t often see priests and nuns in a non-church setting, this seemed very odd to me. Even more disturbing was the friendly way they interacted. Actually, they were “a little too friendly” for my judgmental self. I mentioned to my husband that in all my years, I had NEVER seen a priest out in public with a nun, and it made me both uncomfortable and disappointed in the Catholic church. I just knew there was something inappropriate going on. There had to be, right?
You can imagine my surprise when a few years later, I was serving on a local board of directors in our town, and there sat the “priest” in the meeting. We were asked to go around the room and introduce ourselves to one another. When it came time for the priest to introduce himself, he said, “Hi, I am Pastor Luther Johnson from St. Luke’s Church. What?? St. Luke’s Church was a LUTHERAN church, and his name even had “Luther” in it! So, who was he with that morning? None other than his wife, who I later came to love and respect. How could I have made such a contrary assumption? My perspective was skewed.
You see, I grew up on the western side of Pennsylvania, where you could hear Italian spoken and find a high concentration of Roman Catholics and priests. Now married and in ministry, were we living on the eastern side of the state, and our small rural church was located in a town of where Pennsylvania Dutch was still heard, and there was a high concentration of Lutheran churches and pastors. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But the problem wasn’t my lack of knowledge; it was my jumping to negative conclusions without a truth basis.
I think it is human nature to jump to negative conclusions. The problem is our negative conclusions become the narrative that rules our lives. Instead of assuming the best, we can tend to focus on the worst in almost every situation. The Bible has so much to say about our thought life, but for this moment, let’s just talk about three ideas.
Every day we have a choice.
Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life so that you and your descendants might live!” (NIV)
In this portion of scripture, Moses is telling the Israelites that God is making a covenant with His people, but they must choose the right way. We always have a choice. In the same line of thinking, we decide how our day is going to begin. My husband tells me that there have been times that I have sat on the side of the bed when I wake up, and he hears me say, “okay, let’s go” as I pat the top of the bed and stand up. I think I am subconsciously beginning my day on a positive note. As soon as my eyes open, my mind begins to think about all that needs to happen that day. Maybe all of you “A” type personalities can relate. I take a few moments to breathe a prayer and thank God for the day, getting my mind in the right frame, and then get going.
However, just because I start that way, there are times that negative thoughts try to overtake my day, how about you? Someone will say or do something that negatively affects me if I allow it. When I am having a particularly stressful day, I will hear Jesus speak to my heart, “check your thought life.” Ouch!
The focus of our thought life is important!
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV)
Let me give you an example. Have you ever sent a text to someone, and you didn’t receive a response back in the nanosecond you expected? Your immediate thought was, “they must be mad at me” or “I should have phrased that differently.” Before long, you have assumed the worst, right? It has happened to me, lots of times! Typically, I will hear back a while later with this response, “Sorry, I had put my phone down.” My thought life was running away and going straight downhill! Truthfully, I expect grace from people that I sometimes do not give.
It is our responsibility to reign in our thoughts.
The Bible is so explicit when it comes to our thought life. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV)
We all know that thinking the worst, or not giving grace to people, is both unbecoming and unlike who we are supposed to be as believers and daughters of the King. God has given us so much grace and mercy, right? It should be our privilege to offer that same grace and mercy to others. But sometimes we don’t. Why? I can’t speak for you, but for me, when I feel insecure in who God has called me to be, I become critical of others.
Twenty years ago, I was on vacation in Mexico with my husband, Steve at a beautiful resort. One sunny day, we entered the pool area, which was breathtaking, and began looking for a place to put our things down and pick our loungers for the day. As we looked around, we spotted the perfect area, near this amazing built-in waterfall, and eyed that as our ideal spot. As we began walking down a set to steps toward that area, this woman came walking by rather abruptly. She was strutting like a peacock as she made her way around us. Wearing her beautiful bathing suit on her toned body, she finished off the look with high heeled sandals. “Confident,” “toned,” and “tanned,” described her, and “insecure,” “flabby,” and “white,” described me, or at least that was how I was feeling. This led me to say to Steve, “who does she think she is!” My “thoughts” popped out of my mouth.” Well, the next thing I remember was a man with a microphone, saying, “now, let’s welcome our model.” We had actually walked “through” a fashion show, and the steps were being used as the runway. I felt so stupid, but, lesson learned. You never really know what is going on behind the scenes or in someone’s life. Always think the best.
Ephesians 4:2 says, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (NIV)
Today, make a choice, focus on what is good and reign in your thought life.
On the journey with you!