One of the important things I learned in college was that just believing I don’t have a test, doesn’t mean there isn’t a test. 😃
I also learned that believing that someone has a romantic interest, doesn’t necessarily mean they do (and visa versa!)
What WE believe about other people matters — but not always! The truth is we can be dead wrong when thinking about what others are thinking.
This is the same truth I have found about witnessing. We may assume people aren’t interested in Christ. Or we can assume that some person we work with will be turned off by an invitation to a church program. But THEIR reality isn’t necessarily the reality I have imagined for them. Know that your mind is fertile ground for biases that may not be the other person’s thoughts at all. It is possible my lack of interest in a church program is the only thing that is really fueling my negative imaginings of their thoughts!
Jesus said, “do not judge that you be not judged.” Usually we take this to mean don’t condemn people. But could our pre-judgements actually limit our gospel sharing? We see another person’s lifestyle choices and create a stereotype of what they “likely” would say. However everyone has two aspects to their life in which we have only a limited vision: a) their back story b) their current story.
I met Gus on his front porch — a porch strewn with empty beer cans. When I began talking to him about Jesus, I thought he would brush me aside based on the loud heavy metal music coming from his house, and his scarred, street fighter appearance. But he had a back story — his wife had tried to kill him one night by stabbing his throat. He also had a current story — he was expecting a grand baby very soon. Somehow these two things softened this man, to a point that his eyes glistened as we talked together about Christ.
How can we defeat pre-judgements so they don’t defeat us?
1) Take time to ask people for their “back story.” Listen well. Consider well what have been the pain points of their lives.
2) Whatever negative past experience you have had with a person, by grace, should be wiped from your mind. Make this purge daily. Somehow anointed David did this for King Saul again and again, never seeing him for what he had done, but rather for who God had originally intended Saul to be.
3) Start each new encounter with the hopeful assumption that either God’s providence or their life events have swept a fresh breeze of spiritual need and curiosity into their lives.
4) Prayerfully ask God to help you love the person you are talking with as He loves them.
Remember, we are all more than the bodies we inhabit; our lives are books being written! Odd but the Author of Life has given us permission to write our own ending, and power to alter another’s story-line. May God give you wisdom as you insert your voice and Jesus’ name into someone else’s book!