Respect the Image | Think the Best & Examine Your Heart
How do our negative assumptions about people's motives create havoc in our relationships? What is root cause of all our frustrated desires? Last week we considered the three principles: Initiate Peace, Celebrate Others, and Assume You Are Wrong. This week we continue with the final two principles in the book Respect the Image – Think the Best, and Examine Your Heart.
Think the Best
Charles Spurgeon writes, “Suspicion makes a man a torment to himself and a spy toward others. Once you begin to suspect, causes for distrust will multiply around you, and your very suspiciousness will create a major part of them.” Whether we like to admit it or not, we cannot fully claim to know the motives of other people’s hearts. We give ourselves too much credit for being “discerning” about the negative intentions of others. When we are ruled by a suspicious spirit rather than making a charitable effort to give people the benefit of the doubt, out of love, we create havoc in our relationships. Our cynical distrust of others can lead us to assume the worst about them and be offended at everything they do, even when no offense was intended. If we have an eye for the worst, we will begin to see, even worse, imagine them everywhere, to the great harm of relationships.
Since God alone knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart, he alone can judge what people are thinking and why they really do the things that they do. Instead of judging people’s motives negatively, we should strive to banish suspicion and apply the most positive interpretation we can to the action and intention of others. Lest we think this is an act of naivete, Paul reminds us that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Cor 13:7). This means that we must not presume to judge others based on prejudice, cynicism, or a self-righteous assessment. Love is not naturally suspicious but is ever inclined to assume the best of others even when offenses happen. Jesus modeled such grace for us when he interpreted the worst act in history in the best possible light (Luke 23:34).
Next time you notice someone at church talking more to others instead of you, instead of assuming that they don’t like you or are cliquish, consider that maybe they have a hard time interacting with new people. Next time that guy brings up the issue of race again, instead of assuming that he is bitter and won’t let it go, consider that maybe he’s had life experiences that make this an everyday concern for him. Next time you hear about a police shooting of an unarmed person of color, don’t automatically assume that the individual must have been a criminal or that the police officer was definitely racist. Next time your wife asks to have family devotions, instead of assuming she enjoys nagging you, maybe assume that she wants the family to grow spiritually and wants to help you as well! Let us grow in being a church that abounds in love by assuming the best about other people's intentions.
Examine Your Heart
Paul Tripp writes, “whatever rules the heart will exercise inescapable influence over a person’s life.” Our obedience to God and our respect for his image in others results from what our hearts most desire. How we apply each of the principles in this book stems from the desires in our heart to either honor the Lord by respecting his image in others, or by desiring something else more than that. If we struggle in any of these areas, which I hope you have seen, we likely need to examine our hearts. Jesus says that the heart has an inescapable influence over a person’s life, for good and for evil (Matt 12:34-35). This means that our words and actions are controlled by our ‘wants’ and our frustrated ‘wants’ should cause us to be self-aware of the idols in our heart causing us to sin (James 4:1-4). This should compel us to live lives of ongoing repentance before God and humility before others.
But repentance before God and humility before others is not sufficient to change the heart. Idols in our heart need to be replaced with new desires (James 4:8). The best way to turn our hearts from idols is to turn them to God (1 Thess 1:9). A heart filled with the beauty and love of Christ will not only love God the most, but it will also love others well. Communication with creatures who bear the image of God is best done when we are living in fellowship with God. As we grow in communicating in a manner worthy of the gospel together, I pray that our lips will become fountains of grace and our ears transformed into instruments of peace.
- Is there someone in the church whom you have assumed the worst about that has led to you pulling back from them relationally? How can you begin to move back towards them?
- Take some time to examine your heart before the Lord to see where there might be any way that is displeasing to him (Psalm 139:23-24)
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in assuming the best about others.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal idols in your heart and replace them with a desire to love Christ and others well.
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