Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "God Reveals His Presence"1 (Lyrics)
Galatians 5:14 – For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (NLT)
My brother and I don't usually exchange birthday presents, so I was surprised to receive a padded envelope in the mail shortly before my recent birthday. This is more than a card, I thought, fingering a flat, rectangular object in the envelope. When I opened it, the picture on the box revealed a small pocket knife, only three inches long, in the shape of a fish. I recognized it immediately. It was a modern copy of the original knife manufactured in socialist Czechoslovakia before 1989. My brother and I had each had one of the originals, which we had bought for a few Czech crowns, when we first travelled there to visit our relatives in 1961.
My first reaction was bemusement. What am I going to do with this? I thought. We already have so many knives. My brother and I don't see eye-to-eye on many issues, and I mentally dismissed it as another of my brother's "different" ideas of a present. Fortunately, I had time to reflect and to adjust my attitude before I saw my brother on a video chat on my birthday morning.
The Holy Spirit gently reminded me of how special it was that my brother took the time to buy me a gift, wrapping it, sending it, and making a point of calling me first thing on my birthday. The Holy Spirit further pointed out that the fish was an ancient symbol of Christ, although that certainly was not in my brother's awareness. I was convicted of having a critical attitude and of being judgmental and quick to assume that I knew his motivation in giving me a gift that I didn't deem practical. In my lack of awareness, I hadn't seen another side of the situation, but then, I recognized his gift as a reminder of our mutual childhood and a significant link between us.
In Jesus' day, the Pharisees often acted out of a critical attitude. On one occasion, they brought a woman to Jesus.
John 8:4-5 – "Teacher," they said to Jesus, "this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?" (NLT)
Jesus' answer was surprising:
John 8:7b – "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone." (NLT)
Jesus' answer reflected His love for the woman, not rigid adherence to the law.
The Pharisees were quick to judge the woman's misdemeanour, just as I was quick to think of the little fish knife as not being a gift that I needed. My mental criticism was just as judgmental. As Jesus responded out of His love for people, I believe that my brother was motivated by his love for me when he purchased the little fish knife.
Let's not judge a situation by appearances or by our perception of it. Let's respond from the perspective of love.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, that You reveal so many life lessons through ordinary experience. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for pointing out when we are judgmental and critical, without first reflecting on the whole picture. Help us to be as loving and accepting of others as You are, and to try to see each one's heart, rather than making snap assumptions. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.