ASSUMING IS LYING!
"When the seven days of their purification were nearly up, some Jews from around Ephesus spotted him in the Temple. At once they turned the place upside-down. They grabbed Paul and started yelling at the tops of their lungs, 'Help! You Israelites, help! This is the man who is going all over the world telling lies against us and our religion and this place. He's even brought Greeks in here and defiled this holy place.' (What happened was that they had seen Paul and Trophimus, the Ephesian Greek, walking together in the city and had just assumed that he had taken him to the Temple and shown him around)." Acts 21:27-29 (The Message).
Well now, here's an interesting situation! Seeing Paul in the city with a Greek was a far cry from seeing him in the temple with the same man. They assumed that Paul had taken him into the temple, and acted like hooligans on their assumption.
Assuming without listening is a dangerous thing to do. By assuming, these men were doing exactly what they were accusing Paul of doing -- telling lies! Because they had not listened to Paul's message in Ephesus and had even possibly been part of the riot there, seeing the whole city was in an uproar, they had certainly not grasped the truth of his preaching or his credibility as a servant of God.
They assumed that Paul was trying to discredit the Jews and their God; they assumed that he was trying to turn the Gentiles against the Jews; they assumed that he had turned against their God himself, and of course they assumed that he was a dangerous man and needed to be eliminated. From where did these assumptions come? From the "father of lies" of course! Anyone is open to these kinds of assumptions if he does not have a heart for the truth.
These Jews were in the grip of both tradition and religion that had turned them into bigots and potential murderers. It was they, not Paul, who were misrepresenting the God they were supposed to be worshipping. It was their agenda, not God's, they were fighting for because, if they had understood the God who had revealed Himself to them through their history with Him and His law, they would have known Him to be a God of mercy and compassion who had a heart for all people, including the Gentiles.
Their own Scriptures foretold a time when Messiah would come and change everything; when the nations would stream to Jerusalem to be part of the universal worship of God.
"In the last days, the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.' The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Micah 4:1-2 (NIV).
If these men, who were so zealous for their religion, had done more listening and less assuming, they would have recognised that they were uniquely privileged to a part of a new era of God's grace.
The tragedy is that people get hurt when we assume without verifying our facts. Our assumptions are often based on our inborn desire to be one up on other people. How often do we assume things that are to the detriment or ourselves and the advantage of other people?
If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must cultivate a generous and honest heart that assumes nothing but gives people, even those we don't like, the benefit of the doubt. To take the trouble to be sure of our facts will offset a whole lot of pain, for other people as well as ourselves, and contribute to peace instead of conflict, which is the life we are called to live.
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