When I was practicing law in Scotland I sometimes appeared before a judge who by all accounts was a decent man. But it was well-known that he favored the side which first appeared before him. So prosecutors loved him as they always presented their evidence first. Plaintiffs (called pursuers in Scotland) also loved him because they similarly led evidence first. Although he was a good man, he was a bad judge. A competent judge suspends making a decision until he or she has heard all of the evidence.
King Solomon put it this way: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). This is very sound advice. In a court case cross-examination is vital as the evidence by one side is then tested by the other side. Most people can sound convincing if their evidence and allegations are never tested!
Every day all of us are tempted to make judgments about people and events. With social media and 24 hours of “breaking news,” it is very easy to jump to quick conclusions about a particular issue or person when all we have really heard is one side. Many people quickly put statements on social media based on half-truths, or rumors, or allegations, or unsubstantiated statements. On the face of it they may appear to be experts on the issue they present! But the fact that someone makes an allegation or an accusation does not prove the veracity of the statement. Wise people reserve judgment until they have heard “the whole truth.” “The one who states his case first” may be lying, prejudiced, or simply unaware of all the facts.
Over the years many couples with marital problems have come to see me seeking counsel. Often a wife will first present her side of the difficulties. She may not be lying or trying to deceive me, but in many cases she is selective in what she tells me. Then when I meet with her husband I hear another side of the truth! Wisdom requires all of us to suspend judgment until all the facts are known. Too often we jump to conclusions based on our prejudices, preconceptions, or whether we like or dislike a person or viewpoint. In a criminal trial the accused is presumed to be innocent until all the evidence is presented, and a verdict then reached.
The Old Testament prophet, Micah, said that the Lord requires of us that we “do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). God is infinite in His justice, and we who claim to be His children should also live justly and show kindness to all rather than quickly believing some accusation or rumor, and possibly even gossiping about it to others.
While Lady Justice is blind and her scales of justice perfectly balanced, the reality in our world is often very different. But I am thankful for a God who is infinite in His justice, and whose judgments are always just, impartial, and loving. Let’s always seek to be just and kind, and not quickly jump to conclusions when we have only heard one side.
Originally published in South Charlotte Weekly.