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  • Writer's pictureDeborah

Discern Judgement


John 7:24 ESV and MSG

Growing up I lost track of how many times I heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I knew exactly what it meant when my parents said it. My dad was especially adamant about not saying anything if he didn’t have all the facts.

I knew not judging a book by its cover meant I needed to have more information about something or someone before I made a decision.

When I was a newspaper editor that was crucial.

I remember a really sticky situation once when I was told by the published (the owner of the newspaper) to write about something he heard. It was something he heard about someone’s son who didn’t live there.

It was a difficult situation and I knew what had been said was probably not based on all the facts.

I also knew getting to the bottom of the issue would not be easy. That meant I needed to go to the source to get the facts.

I tried to track him down but I wasn’t able to speak with the accused. He didn’t live there and I couldn’t find out where he was living. You have to understand this happened about 35 years ago and the internet wasn’t readily available.

We didn’t have cell phones.

We had pin and paper, a telephone book, a land line, and two feet. That was it.

It seems strange now, but back then we thought that was normal.

Because I wasn’t able to find out where the person in question was living, I had to do research from second hand information. His parents refused to speak with me. I understood that. I knew any other second hand information wasn’t great source material, but I carefully selected three very wise and trusted people to speak with about the information.

They were able to carefully share what they knew to be true, but it wasn’t enough to use to write the story.

I didn’t have a lot to go on.

I was really torn about writing a story for the newspaper based on sketchy information. Not only was there potential that I didn’t have all the facts, there was a liability.

So…that’s what I landed on.

I remembered my parents saying over and over again, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

That saying just kept chipping away at me.

As it turned out, I ended up going back to the publisher and I told him I didn’t have enough information to write a credible story.

We argued about it.

I told him I refused to write a story based on gossip.

So, the publisher wrote the story and told the copy girls to put it on the front page. That was the first and only time he wrote anything for the newspaper while I was there.

Here’s the kicker…he refused to put his name on the story. When it came out in the paper everyone thought I wrote it. Even when I told them I didn’t write it they were angry.

That was the beginning of the end of my newspaper career. I knew what the publisher did was wrong and I wasn’t willing to work under those circumstances.

Scripture tells us in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

At the time I wasn’t sure how to handle it…probably because I was thirty something. At sixty something I know what I’d do, I’d tell the publisher I can’t of good conscience be part of something based on what it looks like on the outside.

Today I would tell the publisher he’d have my resignation on his desk in the morning. I wish…oh how I wish I’d said that 35 years ago.

In the Message, John 7:24 says, “Don’t be hypercritical; use your head—and heart!—to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right.”

Today I would stick to my guns. Maybe that’s because I’m older and I know what it means to stand on principle. But maybe, just maybe it’s because I’ve grown up a little and today I know when I do what’s right, God will bless me regardless how it turns out.

The bottom line is that I’m WAY sassier than I was when I was thirty something (and I was pretty sassy then). One of the nicknames I picked up through the years is “Queen of Sass.” I earned it by learning to speak truth even when it wasn’t the popular thing to do.

Come to think of it, today I just might write a clever sassy tale about gossip and using second hand information and the danger of not knowing the facts. Then after it published, I’d resign.

That’s because I happen to think really telling the whole truth is a very good thing when it comes to standing up for what’s right and true. I think that’s exactly what Jesus did every day.

Spiritual Practice: Look Deeper

Think of a time when you did or did not have all the facts about something or someone. Would you do things differently today?

In God, Deborah


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