It was F.B. Meyer, I believe, who once said that when we see a brother or sister in
sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried
not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her.
We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.
Stephen Brown, Christianity Today, April 5, 1993, p. 17.
In his little book Illustrations of Bible Truth, H.A. Ironside pointed out the folly of
judging others. He related an incident in the life of a man called Bishop Potter. "He
was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners. When he went on
board, he found that another passenger was to share the cabin with him. After going to see
the accommodations, he came up to the purser's desk and inquired if he could leave his
gold watch and other valuables in the ship's safe. He explained that ordinarily he never
availed himself of that privilege, but he had been to his cabin and had met the man who
was to occupy the other berth. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might
not be a very trustworthy person. The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables
and remarked, 'It's all right, bishop, I'll be very glad to take care of them for you. The
other man has been up here and left his for the same reason!'"
Our Daily Bread.
We sometimes criticize others unfairly. We don't know all their circumstances, nor
their motives. Only God, who is aware of all the facts, is able to judge people
righteously. John Wesley told of a man he had little respect for because he considered him
to be miserly and covetous. One day when this person contributed only a small gift to a
worthy charity, Wesley openly criticized him.
After the incident, the man went to Wesley privately and told him he had been living on
parsnips and water for several weeks. He explained that before his conversion, he had run
up many bills. Now, by skimping on everything and buying nothing for himself he was paying
off his creditors one by one. "Christ has made me an honest man," he said,
"and so with all these debts to pay, I can give only a few offerings above my tithe.
I must settle up with my worldly neighbors and show them what the grace of God can do in
the heart of a man who was once dishonest." Wesley then apologized to the man and
asked his forgiveness.
Daily Bread, July 20, 1992.
In 1884 a young man died, and after the funeral his grieving parents decided to
establish a memorial to him. With that in mind they met with Charles Eliot, president of
Harvard University. Eliot received the unpretentious couple into his office and asked what
he could do. After they expressed their desire to fund a memorial, Eliot impatiently said,
"Perhaps you have in mind a scholarship."
"We were thinking of something more substantial than that...perhaps a
building," the woman replied. In a patronizing tone, Eliot brushed aside the idea as
being too expensive and the couple departed. The next year, Eliot learned that this plain
pair had gone elsewhere and established a $26 million memorial named Leland Stanford
Junior University, better known today as Stanford!
Today in the Word, June 11, 1992.
Dodie Gadient, a schoolteacher for thirteen years, decided to travel across America and
see the sights she had taught about. Traveling alone in a truck with camper in tow, she
launched out. One afternoon rounding a curve on I-5 near Sacramento in rush-hour traffic,
a water pump blew on her truck. She was tired, exasperated, scared, and alone. In spite of
the traffic jam she caused, no one seemed interested in helping.
"Leaning up against the trailer, she prayed, 'Please God, send me an angel . . .
preferably one with mechanical experience.' Within four minutes, a huge Harley drove up,
ridden by an enormous man sporting long, black hair, a beard and tattooed arms. With an
incredible air of confidence, he jumped off and, without even glancing at Dodie, went to
work on the truck. Within another few minutes, he flagged down a larger truck, attached a
tow chain to the frame of the disabled Chevy, and whisked the whole 56-foot rig off the
freeway onto a side street, where he calmly continued to work on the water pump.
The intimidated schoolteacher was too dumbfounded to talk. Especially when she read the
paralyzing words on the back of his leather jacket: 'Hell's Angels -- California'. As he
finished the task, she finally got up the courage to say, "Thanks so much," and
carry on a brief conversation. Noticing her surprise at the whole ordeal, he looked her
straight in the eye and mumbled, "Don't judge a book by its cover. You may not know
who you're talking to." With that, he smiled, closed the hood of the truck, and
straddled his Harley. With a wave, he was gone as fast as he had appeared.
From the newsletter OUR AMERICA.
Given half a chance, people often crawl out of the boxes into which we've relegated
Larry D. Wright.
At a pastor's conference in Spokane, Chuck Swindoll told of being at a California
Christian camp. The first day there a man approached him and said how greatly he had
looked forward to hearing Dr. Swindoll speak and his delight at now finally being able to
realize that desire. That evening Swindoll noticed the man sitting near the front. But
only a few minutes into the message the man was sound asleep. Swindoll thought to himself
that perhaps he was tired after a long day's drive and couldn't help himself. But the same
thing happened the next few nights, and Dr. Swindoll found his exasperation with the man
growing. On the last night the man's wife came up and apologized for her husband's
inattention to the messages. She then explained that he had recently been diagnosed as
having terminal cancer and the medication he was taking to ease the pain made him
extremely sleepy. But it had been one of his life-long ambitions to hear Dr. Swindoll
speak before he died, and now he had fulfilled that goal.
Commentary and Devotional
At a recent gathering of seminary professors, one teacher reported that at his school
the most damaging charge one student can lodge against another is that the person is being
"judgmental." He found this pattern very upsetting. "You can't get a good
argument going in class anymore," he said. "As soon as somebody takes a stand on
any important issue, someone else says that the person is being judgmental. And that's it.
End of discussion. Everyone is intimidated!" Many of the other professors nodded
knowingly. There seemed to be a consensus that the fear of being judgmental has taken on
Is the call for civility just another way of spreading this epidemic? If so, then I'm
against civility. But I really don't think that this is what being civil is all
about. Christian civility does not commit us to a relativistic perspective. Being civil
doesn't mean that we cannot criticize what goes on around us. Civility doesn't require us
to approve of what other people believe and do. It is one thing to insist that other
people have the right to express their basic convictions; it is another thing to say that
they are right in doing so. Civility requires us to live by the first of these principles.
But it does not commit us to the second formula. To say that all beliefs and values
deserve to be treated as if they were on a par is to endorse relativism -- a perspective
that is incompatible with Christian faith and practice. Christian civility does not mean
refusing to make judgments about what is good and true. For one thing, it really isn't
possible to be completely nonjudgmental. Even telling someone else that she is being
judgmental is a rather judgmental thing to do!
Richard J. Mouw, Uncommon Decency, pp. 20-21.