The Benefit of the Doubt

A prudent question Christians should ask themselves today is whether we live by suspicion or by grace in our interactions personally and professionally. It really does boil down to two paradigms doesn’t it? There is an option to take the information we have and go down a path with a predisposed cynicism or we can embark on the road less traveled and believe the best in people. And yet this second path while fluffy and pretty with its dressings, is not so easily accomplished.

Part of growing as a Christian is learning how wretched man is and how sinful our hearts are. So how then are we to look upon others and extend grace? We know that Christ extended grace to us by dying on the cross for us and that we are to be Christ-like. We know that the Epistles are filled with assertions to embrace and cultivate unity. And yet there is a little hiccup when we attempt to apply this to our daily lives. Frankly, we’ve all been burned a time or two. It is hard to erase the damage that “unfairness” and betrayal have on us. Thus we are left with a mode of operation in our relationships to qualify trust, have trust and respect earned, etc… Some of us will even lean on Matthew 10:16 (Wise as snakes), to make a case for our hesitance for trust. But doesn’t it seem like the tail wagging the dog when we let our past damage determine our future constructions?

I will admit that there are an ample amount of corridors which this topic could go down. As a father, am I to tell my daughter to give the benefit of the doubt to a seemingly shady guy asking to give her a ride? As a professional, am I to take a deal my instincts shout “No!” to because they promise its a good investment? Hardly. It is important for us to recognize the difference between being a good steward with what is entrusted to us and granting someone a graceful benefit of the doubt.

When we read the parable about the talents (Matt 25), we learn that the Lord expects us to multiply the value of what He has entrusted to us. And considering that we are to do all things to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31) and also test all things (1 Thess 5:21), we can surmise that there is a clear responsibility for us to take care about the decisions we make. So, I am left with a big task here to reconcile in my heart. I am clearly shown Biblically that I must extend grace, turn the cheek, project love, and cultivate unity, but I am also shown that I must take great care in my decisions and work to the glory of God. I think these two points are reconciled and flow together seamlessly when we recognize what is a talent versus what is our pride/personal position. When it comes to things that have been entrusted to me (my daughter, my work, my dwelling), I must take great care to do everything I can to glorify the Lord with my choices. This is the prime directive. This is the most important thing above how it affects myself, others, and opportunity. Glory of God, first. Then secondly, when it comes to myself, my personal position, my pride; then I must realize that it is better to consider others in greater position than myself (Phil 2:3) and give them the benefit of the doubt.

We need to live like people that have been entrusted with great things that are not our own. If we live like this with our own position and pride diminished, then we will live grateful thankful lives, not dwelling on the dangers of being burned but rather making careful decisions while giving others the benefit of the doubt.

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