Sermon Illustrations
Posted by Douglas on Feb 12, 2006

When I was a high school math teacher, I remember vividly one algebra one test I gave. As I was correcting the students' papers, I noticed that one student had put virtually no "work" on her paper; only answers. Then, as I corrected her paper, I began to realize that some of her incorrect answers looked very familiar.

Flipping back through the papers I had already corrected, I found a paper with identical answers. In some cases, the first paper had a wrong answer because the student had made a foolish addition mistake (7+8=16, for example). Yet even in these cases, the second student had an identical answer.

Accordingly, since it was exceedingly evident that one student had directly copied answers from the other, I gave that student a zero on the test. Since I had no way of knowing whether the other student was innocent of wrongdoing, I acted in accordance with my "optimism principle," which states, "When in doubt, assume the best." I gave the first student the score earned based on the answers and work given.

Interestingly, the second student's mother had her own "optimism principle" as well. Faced with the possibility that her daughter might have cheated, she chose to assume the best. Especially since she did not know me, or have any reason to believe me over her daughter.

It was not until I showed her the photocopies of the tests that she acknowledged that her daughter was in the wrong.

Why do I tell this story? Because it illustrates an aspect of love which we must emulate. According to 1 Corinthians 13:7, love believes and hopes all things. It is my "optimism principle" in action. When in doubt, assume the best.

Unfortunately, human nature is bent toward assuming the worst. For us it is safer; we are less likely to be hurt or betrayed if we assume the worst. Yet I believe it is better to assume the best and be disappointed or betrayed than to destroy our relationships from the very beginning by assuming the worst.

And if we are hurt in the process, let us remember the love of Christ, which took Him through deeper pain than we could ever dream.

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