Did you ever suspect that someone was up to no good just because that person did something kind for you? Did you wonder if that person was just attempting to gain your favor in order take advantage of you? Did your suspicion prevent you from receiving the kindness with proper gratitude? Did you realize later how foolish you had been for being suspicious?
We get ourselves into trouble when we assume without cause that others have evil motives. Certainly, we must not be gullible, and a healthy level of skepticism can prevent us from being deceived, but unfounded suspicion is a damaging force in the relationships we have with one another. Such suspicion is unloving, distrustful, unjust, and self-destructive. Suspicion can become the source of division and strife between Christians, family members, spouses, etc., especially when it becomes apparent to those who are suspected. How foolish it is to create so many problems for no reason.
An effective example of the damage that can be caused by suspicion is that of King Saul. After David slew the Philistine giant Goliath, Saul set David over the men of war, and David began successfully defeating Saul's enemies (1Sam. 17:57-18:5). However, when Saul heard the women of Israel singing and ascribing greater success to David than to himself, he immediately thought that David was trying to take his kingdom (1Sam. 18:6-8). Notice 1Samuel 18:9 – "Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.” It was irrational and self-destructive for Saul to suspect David because he had been serving Saul with too much success. Of course, Saul had good reason to fear for his kingdom, for Samuel had prophesied that it would be taken from him (1Sam. 15:26-29), but it was never David's intention to seize the kingdom from Saul. Nevertheless, Saul spent the rest of his life thinking evil of his servant David and trying to destroy him while neglecting the needs of the kingdom.
Another example of unfounded, harmful suspicion is found in the Corinthian Christians. Although the apostle Paul had brought the gospel to Corinth (Acts 18:1-7), certain persons had attempted to turn the church against him. These efforts created suspicion of Paul among the Corinthians which undermined the gospel message taught by him. Thus, the result of the Corinthians' suspicion of Paul was that they were in danger of turning away from the gospel truth that saved them. Paul wrote 2Corinthians to reestablish credibility with them and eliminate their suspicion of him and his message. Notice 2Corinthians 7:2 – "Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one” (see also 2Cor. 6:11-13). The Corinthians had made false assumptions about Paul's motives and intentions, but it was they who were in the wrong.
Such unfounded suspicion is not compatible with the excellent way of love. Consider 1Corinthians 13:4-7, and notice that love leaves no room for suspicious minds:
There are several points in this passage that show how love eliminates suspicion. That love "does not act unbecomingly” suggests that love would not permit the thoughts and behavior that suspicion produces. That love "is not provoked” means that love does not react in suspicion of others. That love "does not take into account a wrong suffered” means that even when there is evidence to support suspicion of evil motives, love overlooks it. That love "believes all things” and "hopes all things” means that love assumes the best of others rather than suspecting them of evil motives.
Therefore, let us practice love toward others rather than being suspicious of them. Whatever others say or do, let us assume the best of them. When there appears to be evidence of evil motives, let us act in love toward others by directly addressing the issue rather than passively fuming in our minds with suspicion and anger. In this way, we can prevent or at least limit the damage that can be done by false assumptions and unfounded suspicion. Suspicion can be an effective tool of the devil, so "do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph. 4:27).
Stacey E. Durham
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