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The Healing Journey: Negative Interpretation

During Lent, Rev. Dr. Randall Partin is preaching a series called "The Healing Journey". Each Sunday, he discusses a different topic related to healing the broken relationships in our lives. After service, he gives the congregation "homework" so that they can explore the path of healing in their own lives. This is the homework given on the topic of negative interpretation, and the damage caused when we assume others act with negative intent.

Negative Interpretation: jumping to a conclusion, pre-judging or misreading someone or a situation. Making a harsh or snap judgment about someone.


God of the friends who change our minds,

God of friendships that change who we are:

we give thanks that in being with and for others,

we become something different ourselves.

Instead of pretending to know another’s experience,

or believing the worst of what we’ve heard;

we can assume that what’s best in us

is also true for others.

To lead with trust instead of fear

is to have the faith

that you are God not just with one,

but with all; not just for us

but for everyone.

In finding you in the lives of others,

we find more of you within.


Prayer from Corrymeela Community

October 2020

Scripture Reading | John 18:28-40

Jesus before Pilate

28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters.[a] It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters,[b] so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters[c] again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

Jesus Sentenced to Death

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Reading Reflection

  • In what ways did others jump to conclusions about Jesus?

  • How did their assumptions affect the way that they treated Jesus?

Questions to Ponder

What are some relationships or situations in your life in which negative interpretations have caused harm?

How have others made negative interpretations about you or your intentions? How did that feel?

Who have you been guilty of making negative interpretations about their intentions or actions?

How would assuming positive intent change your relationships with others?

Personal Challenges for the Week

  1. Assume positive intent.

  2. Speak with kindness about others, remembering that most people are doing their best.

  3. Read Philippians 4: 8-9 and let it guide your responses to others this week.

  4. Pray for wisdom to know when you are making negative interpretations about others. Ask forgiveness of those relationships that have been harmed by these assumptions.

Adapted by St. John’s UMC from resources created by Rev. Roger R. Sonnenberg

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