Appearances can be deceiving...
Looking back on life, I realize that the above statement is a telling one. Appearances can be deceiving, for though we can observe actions by those around us, and others can observe ours, we cannot know the motivations behind those actions. We can project motivations or intent. We can assume the same. We can even, from time to time and with training and experience deduce intent or motivation; but, we can never be sure. Even when someone says to us, "I meant to do that, because..." do we choose to believe them?
Today's scriptures talk about that judging of appearances. Abigail reminds David, as he is apparently (perhaps even a bit explicitly) intending to wipe out Nabal and every male in his household that the importance of David preserving himself from appearing vengeful is paramount compared to his anger at a jerk like her husband.
As well and once again, Saul hears that David is moving around at the edges of his kingdom and resolves to go out and campaign against a man who continues to insist on referring to himself as "the king's servant." David steals into Saul's camp and takes the king's spear and water skin from beside his sleeping body. Only with that is he able to prove that he is not motivated to cause harm to the king.
When David realizes that he cannot control projections about his choice to live apart from Saul's court and in the wilderness (folks assume he is a rebel and outlaw), then he leaves and settles with the Philistines. As he "serves" Achish, he appears to be raiding Israel, attacking his own people...when in effect he is plundering the Philistine frontier. The ruse is preserved only because he leaves no survivors. It is only when Achish resolves to go to war against Saul-with David at his side-that the ruse fall apart.
In the Acts reading, we get to the point in the unfolding story of the newly-birthed Church with the events of the Day of Pentecost. As the disciples await the arrival of the Christ-promised Advocate in Jerusalem, praying and keeping fellowship, you could cut the tension and anticipation with a knife. Finally, on the 50th day after the Passover, it happens. The Holy Spirit arrives, indicated by a great, loud rush of wind and something appearing like single tongues of flame on the heads of the apostles. As they, now in the spirit, begin to proclaim the Good News, the judging of appearances begins again in earnest: some say they are crazy, babbling nonsense; others, people from other lands and cultures recognize their mother-tongues and dialects coming from people who could not possibly know them; still others see these folks acting oddly and assume they are drunk--and it is 9:00 AM!
Peter's testimony works to dispel these judgments, but before we accept that, let's take a moment and be honest with ourselves...this judging be appearances is one of the hurdles we will continue to face in our lives, in Christ and in the world. Our calling before God is to be willing to seek God's will and judgment before we succumb to projecting motivations on the actions of the people around us, or even upon God's being active in our lives. Suspending judgement does not mean refraining from it; but it does mean that we admit that we cannot know the hearts and intent of others, discerning them simply from the appearances of their actions. If we are to keep fellowship with each other as the Body of Christ, then perforce we will have to accept and embrace that at the root of it all, appearances can be deceiving. Therefore, our first call in dealing with others is better accepted in discernment rather than in judgement. Only God can know a person's true heart and mind...and thus to God alone does judgement belong.