Putting on a good interpretation

“I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me,
but I do not thereby stand acquitted;
the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 3-5)

This passage from the daily readings for Mass reminds me of a recommendation by Ignatius from the Spiritual Exercises. He suggests that when there is any question of another’s motive that it is better “to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it”(22). In the passage from Corinthians, Paul essentially tells us that we ought not to judge one another for similar reasons: we can never know the motivations of another’s heart fully. Indeed, we can never know the motivations of our own heart fully–thus Paul says he cannot even adequately judge himself. Our self-knowledge is always a work in progress, never perfect, still always on the way.

What I especially like about the passage, though, is the last line where Paul tells us that whatever happens at judgment day, we will receive praise from God. In other words, God acts in the way that Ignatius recommends, putting a good interpretation on what we say and do because God knows our deepest motives and the innermost longings of our hearts. And so we ought to act in this same way with one another.

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