Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Benefit of the Doubt

We have all been there; let down by someone we trusted. Unfortunately, it happens in every relationship. The issue is not to find someone who will not let you down, but how to deal with the pain when they do. It is natural to want to shut them out, never trust them again, and retreat into seclusion to never be hurt by another. But is that the best way to react?

It depends on whether your goal is to love others or yourself. That “natural” reaction stems from love of self, which puts self first, above all others at any cost. But that is not how Christians are to love.

John 13:34 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

We are to love others as Christ loved us, humbly and sacrificially. To love humbly is to put the good of others first, not putting yourself down, but with no regard for self at all. To love sacrificially is to sacrifice self for the sake of another’s good; whether that be sacrificing time, money, pride, pleasure, etc. To love by God’s standards is the opposite of the world’s.

1 Corinthians 13:7 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love bears or covers all things which means that love is more important than what has happened. It means that we choose to love the other person rather than hold on to what they have done to us. Love believes all things, or rather believes the best about people. We are to assume the best about a person or situation until we are given proof otherwise. We are to give them the benefit of the doubt. Love hopes all things. We are to keep up hope of the best, hope in God and His goodness. Love endures all things. It never gives up, no matter how hopeless it seems to be. Hope and endurance prevent failure because they don’t give up.

So when you are confronted with a situation where you have been hurt, let down, choose love. Give that person the benefit of the doubt. Even if the hurt is real and not imagined (remember love assumes the best), don’t assume that they meant to hurt you. And even if they did intend to hurt you, forgive. That is one of the foundational truths of our faith, we were forgiven, so we must forgive. Regardless of whether they are sorry, or have changed, or not, we still need to forgive.

Ok, so you have forgiven them, now what? One thing about forgiveness is that you don’t hold the hurt in remembrance (I am not talking about abuse in this case where serious harm may be done). Don’t remind yourself or anyone else of what happened. One sign of bitterness is dwelling on and continuing to bring up past offenses. And that is proof that you haven’t truly forgiven. Of course, forgiveness doesn’t always happen over night. Depending on the offense it may take years to overcome, but the key is to refuse to bring it up. When it comes to mind, don’t dwell on it. Remember your sin, and what Christ went through to forgive you. Remember His grace for you so that you can give it to others. Choose to trust them even if they don’t make any effort to regain your trust. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

At the Last Supper, Christ knew that Judas would betray Him. But rather than writing him off, casting him out, Christ continued to extend friendship and grace. He gave Judas every opportunity to repent. He never gave up on him even though He knew what would happen in the end (see John 13).

Love as Christ did. Never give up on someone, or on God’s ability and willingness to change someone. Give them the opportunity to change. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

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