Friday, May 29, 2009
On Snippet Judging
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The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
“David and Goliath!” my age five son shouted on that long ago morning when I asked which Bible story he wanted to hear. The story of the young shepherd David slaying an enemy giant with slingshot and five smooth stones was irresistible to a young boy.
This portion of David’s life was almost all my young son knew about David, not really enough to make a judgment about his Bible hero. David, like most of us, cannot be summed up in only one or two life-shaping events. Some of his life was brutal. Much was gentle.
Look at some of the highlights of David’s life: He slew a lion and a bear while tending his father’s sheep. Before he became Israel’s king, he slaughtered enemies as a bride price. He became known as a king at war, fighting against marauding nations.
In one of David’s dark hours and weaker moments, he lusted after Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and committed adultery. When she conceived, David had her soldier-husband Uriah placed in the frontlines of a heated battle, guaranteeing his death.
On a happier note, David brought the captured Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, and celebrated its return with a public dance before the Lord. He had many intimate talks with God, repenting of adultery and murder. He recorded his dismay and sorrow over his sins in his many psalms. To this day, millions relate to the psalms penned by this ancient shepherd king.
What if I knew nothing of David’s life except that he brought the bride price and men’s body parts to his future father-in-law? What might I think of him? Barbarian. Beast. Possessed.
If King David’s psalms were the only means of learning about him, might my response be more tolerant? When I read about the weak-in-the-flesh David who was remorseful, repentant and aware of God’s unfathomable grace, would I think more kindly toward him?
The old cliché is true—you can’t judge a book by its cover. God said about David, “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22). David took plenty of wrong turns, but his right turns brought him back to God.
A reader asked me to write about making wrong judgments based only on snippets of life, often by what we see, hear, or read. She tagged a common problem. In thoughts, conversations, and writing, unfair and biased opinions are often made.
Michel de Montaign, a religious writer from the middle ages wrote, “There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging 10 times in his life.” We all log less than stellar moments.
We also have times when we can step away from what we see in a small frame of time and can look at the big picture. Author David G. Meyers gives excellent advice about judging, “When torn between judgment and grace, let us err on the side of grace.”