Quite often when we witness some bizarre behavior by someone we ask the question: What were they thinking? The situation might involve the actions of a family member like a child or more pointedly it may an event of horrific violence and destruction like a mass shooting. News reports of these more highly visible happenings almost always address or speculate about the underlying motive of the perpetrator.
When I ponder this question I have to wonder what I would find if I could peer inside the mind of those I view as evil. Would I find thoughts and emotions different from my own or perhaps very familiar? Would it be obvious that the person in question is fundamentally different from me? Of course, all I can really do in this regard is speculate. I am not a mind reader, nor is anyone else. The thoughts and intents of the heart of another are available only to the Almighty.
As I continue to think about motives, misbehavior, and the relationship of the two, I consider another question. When someone kills, how often have I contemplated killing. When another abuses, how often have I thought about abusing. Most of us would tend to draw a great distinction between thinking about and actually doing.
However, those who have a connection with Jesus through knowledge of the Bible probably know that Jesus established a solid line between thinking evil and doing evil. In fact, he stated unequivocally that they were equal in magnitude or wickedness. Maybe Jesus understood, in ways we fail to appreciate, how short the distance is between intemperate thoughts/words and evil deeds.
In denial of this proclaimed reality, we want to excuse our evil impulses and condemn the evil deeds of others, assuming that these others are somehow dramatically different from us. In the process we assign them assumed motives or dispositions which are different from our motives and dispositions, those which drive our impulses and not infrequent misbehaviors.
It’s a very convenient mental process but one which is open to serious doubt if we admit our lack of omniscience. True wisdom more likely lies in the old admonition against condemning my brother until I have walked a mile in his shoes. The clear implication is that once I fully understand what lies behind the outward appearance of that brother I will find no reason to condemn him because he is so like me as to actually be me.