With the wisdom and experience of years, however, I’ve found that to be an overly simplistic view of others. The Bible does warn us about the depravity of the human heart. In Jeremiah 17:9, it tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” So people are certainly prone to sin, and without God’s intervention into people’s lives, they can certainly find a life of wickedness and become consumed in it without too much trouble. But there is also a tiny spark of hope in the human soul. Because we were made in the image of God, we also have the capability of choosing good and right, but this is only a capability that must be exercised by force of our will. And we are certainly not, as the humanists would like to believe, all basically good inside, only turning out to be good or evil depending on our circumstances, environment, training, education, etc. Garbage in, garbage out – simply a product of the forces put into us depending on where we are and in what life circumstances we are born into. This too is an overly simplistic view of people because it makes us sound like we are at the whim of fortune, buffeted about by our circumstances and unable have a significant influence on how we turn out.
Obviously we have a significant say on how we turn out. We are not doomed by our circumstances. There have been many people in history or in our own culture who have been born into less than fortuitous circumstances, but by talent, hard work, and inspiration, they exercised their free will, choosing a better life than the one that was handed to them in their early years. The odds are certainly very hard against us without God’s intervention in our lives. We have to contend with our sin nature, the active mischief of Satan and his demons, and a world system that tends toward only the baser things in life such as material gain, self-glorification, and hedonistic-indulgence. There are so many things stacked against us, that it is almost impossible to choose and consistently live out a life of good without the help of God. Lamentations 3:22 tells us about the danger of all these things overtaking us: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.”
This verse tells us two things: that there are forces in the world that would consume each and every one of us if allowed to run their course and that God’s active intervention keeps most of those forces at bay, giving many of us a life of goodness and good things even if we are not walking in God’s will, and even if we are not saved. This is how big God’s Agape love is. It is a God-sized love that spills over from the lives of believers and onto all those that just happen to be around the believers. It is so big that it spills out from the character and lives of the believers as they interact with people around them in their daily lives. And this Gargantuan Agape Love even lavishes blessings on those that are outside the will of God, as He tries to entice them back into His fold (Romans 2:4), through the door of His son Jesus (John 14:6).
Suffice it to say that any human being you meet up with could be anywhere along the spectrum of morality from utter depravity to complete obedience to God. But there’s no guarantee that this information about the state of their hearts and souls can be ascertained so easily in a chance encounter. There is the rare person that is very open about who they are, and you can seemingly read them like a book, and they may turn out to be just as you suspected. But the vast majority give off inconclusive signals of body language and behavior in chance encounters that can easily be misinterpreted. And most often, the mistaken signal is simply our own childish prejudice, assigning certain characteristics to people automatically based on a few traits of physical appearance, manner of clothing, behavior habits, etc. I’ve lived long enough to figure out that the outer impression of the person or my ignorance in reading the outer impression of that person does not give enough information to determine whether they are good or bad, kind or cruel, generous or stingy, etc., etc.
Bottom line, we cannot assume, even if we see a fellow human being commit what we think is an infraction or offense, that their motives were intentional and deliberate. People are prone to mistakes, so it is best to give them the benefit of the doubt and automatically assume the best, the most compassionate interpretation of their actions, rather than assuming the worst. When we do this, we will be much happier, not going through life constantly getting angry at all the people we imagine are taking advantage of us when they may be completely unaware of who you are, unaware of whether you were even there, and unwitting of any influence they may have had on you.
I pray that God will build in you His patience and compassion toward other people, opening your eyes to the suffering and trials of those around you, and that you will be slow to judge them unkindly.