Resisting the urge to judge and condemn others it not as easy as we may think. There is this innate need to be superior. Superiority is dehumanizing and anti-Christ because it denies the image of God in others. The bible is replete with narratives and verses that instruct us on how we must esteem others as we live in community. Yes!!! It will take a renewing of the mind for us to begin to see others THROUGH GOD’S EYES.
1 Samuel chapters 11 to 16 gives an account of how David was chosen as king over Israel. Perhaps the most instructive verse of the unfolding of this interesting saga (which today could easily become a poignant Hollywood story that chronicles a life from obscurity to prominence) is found in chapter 16, verse 7: “…The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
The Lord told Samuel to go anoint another king. This time the Lord said, “For I have selected a king for myself” (16:1). Before, a king was selected by the people (1 Sam. 8:5). Samuel, when he arrived at Jessie’s house and looked at his son Eliab thought, “Surely, this must be the one1” No doubt, he must have been tall, and handsome and fair. Even God’s prophet was fooled by appearances. But God reminded him that what qualified a wo/man for His work were not outward appearances but the state of his/her heart. Amazingly, even Jesse, the father of the future king, never thought of David, for he was not called with the other sons to walk before Samuel. Surely, God must have been out of His mind to have thought of this little boy who by the standards of other had been disqualified. But David went on to be the greatest king in the history of Israel.
In the New Testament, Luke 15:1-17, Jesus tells a scintillating parable about lost things! Jesus was doing what was normative for him to do – outreach – and there were those who were upset with what He was doing and with whom he associated. “This man sits with sinners,” they said among themselves. But Jesus began to confound their self-righteousness and condemnation with those parables (Lost sheep, lost coin, lost son). Jesus first drew on their common understanding of a shepherd’s responsibility and practice of pursuing a lost sheep even into treacherous paths.
Just in case they didn’t understand, Jesus told another story about a woman who had ten silver coins (possibly a day’s wage or a symbol of her betrothal). So when any of those ten coins is lost, there will be a great desire to find it and a feeling of great loss if she loses any. Clearly, the point of Jesus’ parable about lost things (a sheep that had lost its direction; and a coin that had appeared to have lost its worth) is that they are all valuable and of worth to the person who lost them. Every ‘sinner’ is considered a lost child of God and God places TREMENDOUS value on them (being lost does not diminish their value; only their use) that he would stop at nothing to find/rescue them from their “lostness”. Finding them makes God happy according to Luke 15:7.
Jesus proceeded to tell the story of the obstinate and ungrateful son who wished his father dead and abandoned their relationship. Despite his actions, upon his return, his father ran out to meet his son and accepted him. A real demonstration of LOVE! Interestingly, this son expected to be treated as a servant. Instead, the father restored him fully. Again, there was rejoicing over the lost. This, again, Jesus said to explain the love of the Father and to clarify His situation with those whom the Jews considered sinners/lost.
Do we place the same value as our Heavenly Father places on the lost? Is the urge to condemn difficult to resist? Too often as a church, we respond in callousness to people who have fallen; we remember and categorize people according their sin. We see no value in the lost and that is why we have no desire to be where they are and to reach out to them. Reaching out to the lost requires diligence; effort; love and value for them. Do we see value in even the vilest of sinners?
It will take a special kind of re-socializing/re-orientation for us to begin to estimate fairly those around us who may not believe and practice like we do if we are going to engage them and bring about transformation. Paul calls this re-orientation a ‘renewing of the mind’ in Romans 12:2. Remember, a change in others begins with a change in YOU!!!