I hate to admit this, but sometimes I judge a person before I really know them.
I think if we are all being honest we can agree we have done this at least once or twice before. Maybe more. We might have even done it today without even realizing it. I am always slow to catch myself when my mind starts creating a story for the person standing in front of me, a story that somehow paints me in a better light.
But God has a way of showing us what’s really true.
My very first real job was at a party rental store right beside the business where my mother worked. During the summer, she would wake me up at 8:30 in the morning and served me a blurry-eyed breakfast before we drove to work together. I wasn’t strong enough to deliver and set up peaked tents and gigantic inflatables so I was the one who stayed back at the office and cleaned the returned items: impossible white linens and tablecloths; a popcorn stand; a snow cone maker; a cotton candy machine; and more chairs than you can count. There were long days were I would just clean chair after chair, my hands and nails becoming dry and rough as I dipped them again and again into a bucket of soapy water.
Most of the guys I worked with wouldn’t be what I would have called “the boy you take home to mama.” At least, not to my mama. One in particular had a shaved head with tattoos covering his arms and neck, stretching up into his scalp. His face was covered with piercings. When he spoke to his buddies, he swore every other word. It was the end of our shift one day when we were both taking a small break in the waiting room before we headed home.
I remember strongly hoping he wouldn’t try to start up a conversation with me and feeling bad almost instantly for thinking it. So I tried to create one on my own. They had just taken out a bunch of inflatables for a church function so I focused on that.
“I’m surprised kids still like to play on inflatables,” I said, “considering all the technology they have now.”
“I still make my kids go outside,” he laughed. Some other words were added in between, but I’ve left those out.
We talked a little bit more before he had to leave.
I discovered through this conversation that he had recently married a woman with two kids from previous relationships. He seemed to be the only father figure in their lives, and even though he didn’t look it, he showed a love for these children as if they were his own. He didn’t call them his step kids or his wife’s sons.
They were his through and through.
God spoke to me very clear then. God was showing me a picture that day of what His love looks like for His creation. We could be a burden for Him, but instead He welcomes our messiness with big, loving arms.
“I love these men as I love you,” God spoke to me. “What you see when you look is someone too far gone. I see someone worth chasing after.”
I pray that Jesus gives me His eyes to see.
This world is much too focused on outward appearances. It has attacked the church by saying there is a certain way a congregation or a church member should look. We force ourselves to fit a mold of what counts as a “beautiful Christian.” There is nothing beautiful or pure about Christians. The only beauty we have is found in the blood of Christ. There is only one description of a Christian and that is someone who has accepted the invitation to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It’s not the clothes you wear to church or the verses you post on Instagram. It’s not how many you times you agree to pray in public.
It has always been deeper than that.
One story that came to my attention is found in the Old Testament and it is the anointing of David. When Samuel is called to find a new king to rule after Saul, he travels to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem. The only thing he knew was that one of Jesse’s sons would be king, but he didn’t know who. Jesse believed so deeply that David—his youngest son—would never be more than a shepherd boy that when Samuel asked to see all of his sons, no one bothered to call David back from the fields.
Only seven brothers presented themselves to Samuel.
I love the way The Message version tells the rest of this story:
6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Here he is! God’s anointed!”
7 But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”
8 Jesse then called up Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. Samuel said, “This man isn’t God’s choice either.”
9 Next Jesse presented Shammah. Samuel said, “No, this man isn’t either.”
10 Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.”
11 Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?”
“Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”
Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.”
12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health—bright-eyed, good-looking.
God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”
13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.
Samuel left and went home to Ramah.
David’s brothers were probably bigger than him. They might have been stronger or smarter or more charming or better looking. But God didn’t choose who the world expected to be successful. He chose someone the world didn’t even give a second glance at.
We need to stop focusing on what we think is the perfect Christian.