One of the most hurtful things a person can do is to ascribe unintended motives to our actions. Sometimes, words are said with no malice that cause hurt. Sometimes, actions are taken out of an unrelated impulse that lead to harm. If the offended party turns around and makes an accusation, we can feel indignant or even as if we are being defamed.

And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He *said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They *said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He *said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.

Matthew 22:16-22 (NASB)

Jesus could see what we may not always see; the hearts of his accusers were an open book to Jesus. Lacking such persistent and reliable clarity, we are left with a dilemma, to judge or to give grace.

It is a point of caution for us as Christians, therefore, that we are to be aware of our own hearts. Not that we should police every breath to watch for the slightest perceived offense, but that we should know what is expected of us and reach for the best version of ourselves. Further, grace demands that we extend the benefit of the doubt to others, forgiving the offender “seventy times seven” times (Matt. 18:22).

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Romans 12:17-19 (NASB)

What is the purpose of the Christian? What role do we fill? Is it not to spread the Good News that Jesus saves sinners? We cannot do that if we are always on guard and mistrusting of those who we are trying to reach, especially having been in their position ourselves (Rom. 3:23;1 Cor. 6:11). To paraphrase Our Lord Jesus’ “golden rule”: don’t assume bad intentions from others, as you would have them assume the best in you.

Ethan Kirl