Maybe that’s why we have spent a lot of time lately looking through old photographs. What did we find? Dogs and cats from puppy- and kitten-hood to grizzled muzzles and bent old bodies, baseball teams, science projects, birthday parties, and Christmas presents; old friends and their young children, who are now grown up like ours; school pictures of the boys, all the way to college graduation; even a few pictures of a couple of kids in 70s polyester, freshly married, with lots of hair and far skinnier than I thought possible. Occasionally we looked at a picture of a toddler and said, “Are you sure that isn’t Silas? Or Judah?” Those always made us smile.
We also found pictures of this place of ours from back when we first arrived. A before and after picture probably wouldn’t do the monumental amount of work we have done justice. We have turned an old watermelon field into a homestead. Sometimes I wonder what will happen thirty or forty years from now. Will someone else enjoy my jasmine vines and eat my muscadines? Will they exclaim over the profusion of volunteer black-eyed Susans and the heat-hearty crepe myrtles? Will they build a better house up under the oak grove in the middle of the property, just west of the firepit? I used to dream of the time we could do that ourselves, but it will obviously never happen.
One thing that surprised us the most were the live oaks. When you see something every day you don’t notice how much it grows. I have always thought of those trees as huge, but now they are twice the size around that they were 33 years ago, and many feet taller. If I hadn’t looked at those pictures, I might never have noticed.
Sometimes we do that to our brethren. We tar them with a brush based upon their behavior decades before and never give them any credit for improving. Can there be anything more discouraging to a brother in Christ?
Think today of your various brethren and how you would describe them to someone else. What exactly are you basing that description on? Something that happened yesterday, or something that happened twenty years ago? Are you giving them any credit for growth? “Judge righteous judgment,” Jesus reminded his disciples in John 7:24. This poor judgment isn’t just a careless mistake of no consequence; it’s a matter of righteousness.
Maybe today would be a good time to reassess our opinions of our brethren. Throw out the old photographs and take a new one. Maybe—just maybe—they will do the same for us.
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous: both of them alike are an abomination to Jehovah, Prov 17:15.