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Dear COA Family,

An interesting story is told in 1 Samuel 17.

David had been sent by his father to bring food to his brothers. While there, he heard the taunts of the Philistine champion Goliath against the Israelites. He then asked the men around him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel?” (v26). His eldest brother heard of his questioning and, strangely enough, became angry with him. He said, “Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle” (v 28). David’s brother had judged that David was selfish and self-centred in his actions and was therefore a nuisance.

This story illustrates very clearly one chief cause in the breakdown of our communication and relationship with one another. It is the unwarranted (and often untrue) assumptions that we make of another person’s words or actions. David’s motivation to preserve God’s glory was misread by his brother as being a busybody and a glory-hunter for himself.

How many times have we made wrong assumptions of the intents and motivations of others because of wrong perspectives? If we are honest with ourselves, we have been guilty of that on many occasions. We see the actions and hear the words of others and form our assumptions based on our imperfect understanding and experiences.

Just recently, I counselled a couple. They were struggling with serious issues in their marriage and were on the verge of calling it quits. As I spoke with them, I realised where a root cause of their deep conflict came from.

Both the husband and wife thought the worst of each other. The husband thought that whatever the wife did (or did not do) was to provoke him to the point of health breakdown. The wife thought that the husband did not cherish the marriage and was ready to end it at any time. It therefore did not matter what any one of them said or did, all of their words and actions were interpreted in a negative light. They needed to first challenge and change their assumptions of the other person’s motives.

Beloved, the Bible reminds all of us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). The apostle James fully understands our human tendency to rush into judgment of others and provides excellent advice on how we can respond.

Let us always remain humble and always question our own assumptions of someone else’s words and actions before responding:

* Are our assumptions based on our own imperfect perspectives and experiences, or are they based on God’s truths?
* Are our immediate conclusions of others right or are they skewed according to our biases?
* Are we judging others through our own lens or God’s word?

It is always good to pause and stop ourselves from jumping to conclusion, become angry with others and criticise others for their actions. It is always good to examine our own hearts thoroughly. And it is always good to listen intently to others.

As we continually challenge our assumptions of others, align our thoughts with God’s word and open our hearts to the Spirit’s conviction, we will receive God’s wisdom to make the right judgments and grow in greater understanding of ourselves. And this will only serve to grow our relationships with others – by not judging with wrong judgments and by relating with others out of a heart of humility.

God bless,
Revd Ian