Friday, November 1, 2013

Imperfect Perception

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. (Psalm 103:8-9 NAS)

Imperfect Perception
As a loan settlement officer in a financial institution when I was a young adult my stern demeanor often had my colleagues mistaken me as a no-nonsense guy, so few dared to crack a joke in my presence. A temporary staff teenage girl however sensed I was not really as stern as I looked, so she ventured to chat with me on matters outside of work during break times. Before long we became friends and helped each other at work. Beyond work, we also shared about our experiences and the things we learned in our personal lives.

Jesus during His earthly ministry was mistaken by the Jewish leaders as defiant toward the Law and the Prophets. The truth however was far from what they perceived about Him for Jesus came to fulfill and not to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He was hated by the Pharisees and the scribes because Jesus openly spoke of them as blind guides who had shut the gates of heaven so neither they nor the people could enter (Matthew 23:13). In actuality, however, although Jesus sounded harsh when He pronounced the woes of the Pharisees and the scribes (Matthew 23:23-31), He did not mean all of them were hypocrites.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, sought the truth and Jesus directed him in the way of salvation (John 3:1-21). Joseph of Arimathea who was a member of the Council believed in the Lord and took on the responsibility of burying Jesus' body (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50; John 19:38). Clearly, a relationship must had had developed between Jesus and them.

Sometimes when we read from the Bible about God’s punishment exacted on His people when they disobey, we may think of the Father as a fearsome God who would not leave the guilty unpunished even through generations (Exodus 34:7; Job 21:19; Lamentations 5:7). At times, we may even think of Him as a jealous and avenging God who takes vengeance on His adversaries and reserves His wrath for His enemies (Nahum 1:2). Once in a while, when crises come our way, we may think of them as punishment from God, especially when we are living a sinful lifestyle. How we perceive God however might be far from the truth or one-sided for while God is a just God, He is also a compassionate, gracious and forgiving God (Psalm 103:8-10; Joel 2:13). 

Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). By this, Jesus is saying that to those who know Him and have come to be His friends, He openly shares to them about His experiences, the things above and the things on earth, as well as the things He hears from His Father.

Are we quick to assume things about people without first verifying the truth? Do we sometimes mentally label people to think of them positively or negatively without knowing them personally? Are we suspicious about the people around us most of the time or easily deceived to think otherwise?

Like the colleagues of mine and the Jewish leaders, we might sometimes be mistaken to think of people wrongly or be too swift to label them under a type of personality. At times, we might even be overly suspicious or easily deceived. As believers in the Lord, let us be shrewd and not be too quick to jump to conclusion. Instead, let us know each one personally to understand one another better, for if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we think of You as an unforgiving God who would exact punishment on us for the wrongs we have done even after we have confessed our sin and returned to You. Help us not jump to conclusion too quickly Lord or label the people around us to think of them negatively or positively without verifying the truth. Abide in us Lord and let Your love be perfected in us. Thank You Lord for being our Friend and for being compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

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