The Impressionable Christian
God's people have something in common with those outside of Christ: the ability of being influenced intellectually, emotionally and morally. We are all affected by impressions. Everything in life leaves its mark on the mind or senses. We all have notions, feelings, and recollections that are brought about by some force or influence, whether it be good or bad. All of us are impressionable. It is a God-given entity. However, our impressionableness needs to be monitored constantly. Where guarded watchfulness in this area is lacking, friction usually results, either in ourselves or with others. Jesus addressed this use when he said, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (Jn. 7:24). It is so easy for us to be so influenced that we do not form sound judgment. A man's judgment is no better than his information. In fact it is directly influenced by knowledge. One should not be motivated by first impressions any more than he would pass judgment on an automobile by the sound of its horn. Just because a man "toots his own horn" does not necessarily mean that he is proud, or arrogant. He may be trying to tell you something! In judging others it's always wise to see with the heart as well as with the eyes. "The dove and the woodpecker were returning home from a visit to the peacock. `How did you like our friend?' asked the wood-pecker. `Is he not disagreeable? His pride, his awkward feet, his hard voice, are unbearable.' `I did not notice these things,' replied the dove. `I could only gaze at his beautiful head, his gorgeous colors, and his majestic train" (I Can Do It, p. 70).
"One spring, sometime before the Civil War, a boy in search of work came to Worthy Taylor's prosperous Ohio farm. The farmer knew nothing much about the boy except that his name was Jim, but he gave him a job. Jim spent the summer cutting stove wood, bringing in the cows and making himself generally useful. He ate in the kitchen and slept in the haymow. Before summer was over, Jim had fallen in love with Taylor's daughter. When the farmer refused to let him marry her, telling him bluntly, that he had no money, no name and very poor prospects, Jim put his belongings into his old carpet bag and disappeared. Thirty-five years passed before Taylor one day pulled down his barn to make way for a new one. On one of the rafters above the Haymow, he discovered that Jim had carved his full name -- James A. Garfield. He was then president of the United States."
What a lesson for us! Some of us can identify with this incident. We have either shown rashness in forming judgments about others, or else we have gotten off on the wrong foot because of someone else's wrong impression due to certain circumstances. Whatever the case, early impressions often rob us of opportunities. How sad.
A proneness to judge is condemned by Jesus (Matt. 7:1). However, this rebuke of the censorious spirit is not to be read as forbidding the framing of such judgments of others as circumstances of our position render necessary. Every day of our lives we are called upon to form, and frequently to express a consensus upon men, as well as theories, proposals, events, etc. as to true or false, right and wrong, wise or unwise, expedient or inexpedient. We must judge that we may know how to act. But the point is this: there is the possibility of judging rashly; of judging with bias and prejudice; of judging so as to do wrong to individuals, of judging so as to injure truth and retard progress and improvement.
In Deuteronomy 1:16-17, rules are laid down that have primary application to the administration of law, but their principles are applicable in the formation of decisions upon the character and action of others. They are equally fitted to guide our private judgments. Before acting on your impressions:
I. Gain the real facts of the situation. Solomon said, "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Prov. 18:13). Moses commanded, "hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him" (Deut. 1:16). Judgment passed in ignorance of the real facts of the case is unjust. Think of the conflict that would be eliminated if this became a practice of the brethren. The law of Christ demands this of us (Matt. 18:16).
Make an impartial judgment based upon facts (Deut. 1:17). Jesus said, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (Jn. 7:24).
Righteous judgment should be done fearlessly (Deut. 1:17). Experience teaches us that some brethren are not above time-serving tampering with conviction, of seeking man's favor, and of doing the thing we do not at heart approve. The dread of temporal consequences sometimes makes cowards of the best of us. Blessed is he, who in doing the will of the Lord, never fears the face of man!
Judgment is rendered with a due sense of responsibility to God. Just as civil judges are vicegerents, deriving their authority from God, striving to express justice, do so with a sense of irresponsibleness and accountability (1 Pet. 2:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7), so is the case of the judgment of Christians. We will be held responsible for our decisions! Any judgment that is biased, untrue, and insincere is a misrepresentation of that truth and rectitude which have their ground in God himself (Matt. 18:7-8,15-20).
If at any time we act on our impressions in the absence of any of the above items, we are incompetent to act, and will be judged accordingly (Matt. 7:2). Plutarch once said, "To find fault is easy; to do better may be difficult." My friends, do not let impressions get the best of you. Be sure your life is secure through obedience to the will of God (Heb. 5:8-9).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 5, p. 21-22