Tears trickled down my face as I looked him in the eye. “I am so sorry, Mr. Reed. I thought I had enough proof. I thought I had the facts. I didn't want to believe it was you, but that seemed to be where the evidence led me.”
Mr. Reed's tight lips curved up into a slight smile. “Evidence is a tricky thing, my girl. Sometimes it will lead us to answers, but often it will only lead us to what we expect to find. That is why we must be careful to judge correctly and not jump to conclusions when we don't have all the facts.”
-- Excerpt from My Fears Relieved: A Delaware Detectives Mystery
In my newest mystery novel, Abby faced the same problem we often face: she jumped to conclusions. She looked at the facts. She followed the evidence. She thought she had everything figured out, but in the end, she accused an innocent man of a severe crime. How could she have been so wrong? How could the evidence have led her so far astray? How could she have misjudged the situation? The same way we can.
Evidence is great, but as Mr. Reed said, it can be a tricky thing. We can take evidence and skew it with our own interpretations and assumptions, just as Abby did in the book. Take, for example, the woman who sits in the back pew of the church. She never smiles. In fact, she looks like she's been sucking on a lemon all her life. So, we examine the evidence, add up the facts and come to our concrete conclusions about her. She must be rude and not right with God, which explains both her sour look and her backslidden position in the church house. Who knows what kind of trouble she could cause if someone were to anger her? So we avoid her, just to be safe.
Sadly, there is some evidence that is not visible to the human eye. What we mistook for evidence of a sour attitude was actually the grimace of a body wracked with pain. Her position on the back pew? Well, that's as far as she can walk inside the doors without needing to rest her weary body. And as for her rude, standoffish manner, well, that's not true either. In fact, if we were to make our way over to shake her hand, we would discover that she is one of the sweetest people in the entire world. She's not trying to avoid others. She simply can't stand the pain long enough to walk around and mingle. Do you see what a terrible mistake we've made?
Whether it be in the church, in the workplace or even at home, we all have a tendency to appoint ourselves judge and jury. We examine "all" the evidence and judge people according to what we see and think, but it's high time we realize that we're not fit to be judges because we cannot adequately examine all the evidence. We need someone who is just and holy. We need someone who can see the obvious and the not-so-obvious. We need someone who knows what's good and what's right. We need to let God be God, and part of His job as God is to be the ultimate Judge.
As for us, well, may I be blunt? Perhaps if we spent as much time minding our own business and judging our own actions, attitudes and motives, we wouldn't have time to worry about anyone else. Yeah, I know, that hurts, but it's true, isn't it? God is excellent at His job, and He doesn't need our help. Let's leave the judging to Him!
There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? - James 4:12