Walking down a city street early this morning, I noticed a man approaching. The look on his face from a distance elicited the immediate thought that he was not in a good mood. I suspected that if I made eye contact and said hello (we still do that in the Deep South of the United States!), he would ignore me.
Just the opposite happened. I looked at the man as our paths crossed and said "Good morning." He immediately responded with a soft, but gracious voice, "Good morning!" I immediately realized how wrong and unfair my initial assessment of the gentleman had been. I then remembered our Lord's admonition to avoid appearance-based assessments, especially of people. Indeed, appearances may indicate something about people, particularly of their hearts, but they may not. Thus, we do well to emphasize the "righteous judgment" of God and His Word, beginning with the Bible's clear proclamation of how limited we are in determining inner realities by outward indications. "Give me understanding" asked the Psalmist, who well knew his desperate need for the Lord's illumination (Psalm 119:34).
Jumping to conclusions about people based on appearance indicates that we don't know ourselves very well. That is, we fail to recognize our fleshly tendency to base truth and reality on our limited powers of discernment. We also fail to access the grace whereby we base our expectations on the Lord's personal involvement in ordering the steps of our lives (Psalm 37:23). Indeed, I do not believe the crossing of paths with the aforementioned gentleman this morning happened as a matter of mere chance and circumstance. No, I received further education (much needed!) concerning the truth we presently consider, as well as being afforded the privilege of sharing this with you. Moreover, I have opportunity to pray for the man, whom I may never see again, but for whom I can make request unto the Lord for a lifetime. Join me in that regard, and let us all expect many opportunities to overcome the temptation to "judge... according to the appearance." Our Lord rather calls us to His "righteous judgment" whereby God-centered evaluations lead us in Truth and the love of Christ.
"Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."