Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
First impressions can mean a lot. That’s why Christian congregations should carefully consider how guests are welcomed. Are they met with friendly, comfortable greetings, or do they simply have a service folder jammed into their hands? Do they have to navigate an awkward gauntlet of strangers in a narrow entryway, or are they given some space to become comfortable in their new surroundings? Congregations will want to do all they can to welcome their guests.
At the same time, it is also true that first impressions are often inaccurate. Perhaps the person handing the guest a service folder wasn’t feeling well that morning; normally he’s the friendliest of fellows. Or perhaps the guest happened to step into the church when the entryway had suddenly become congested. It was a tight squeeze, but it only lasted a few seconds. It would be unfortunate if a guest judged the book by its cover.
It is especially unfortunate when people unfairly judge the motives of those around them. The apostle Paul warns us in today’s Bible reading not to judge other people’s motives; since we cannot read their hearts. In other words, be careful not to judge a book by its cover.
But the day will come, Paul promises, when Jesus “will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.” Rather than judge the motives of others, we do well to assess the motives of our own hearts. Where those motives are not God-pleasing, we can confess them to Jesus and know that those sins, too, were paid for when he went to the cross. His love and forgiveness will motivate us to be generous in the way we think of others and less likely to judge books by their covers.
Dear Jesus, keep me from judging others unfairly. Amen.