The Outward Appearance
We have made it into a new year. The pandemic continues to rage on. In the United States the surge of deaths due to COVID-19 mounts higher and higher. Many people made the decision to travel during Christmas 2020 to visit loved ones even though they were warned that in so doing there would be a spike in infections but they chose not to heed the warning. Sure enough the predictions are coming to pass.
If the pandemic wasn’t bad enough recently there was an attempt to lay siege to the capital building in Washington D.C. to put a halt to certifying the election results for President-elect Joe Biden. People lost their life during this attempt and now because our sitting President encouraged his supporters that the election was fraudulent they acted out of his desire to remain in office even though the election results indicated that he lost.
This reflection isn’t really about all of the news being reported recently or about the suspected continuation of such behavior of rightwing extremists and conspiracy theorists, but rather it is much deeper than that. What I seek to hold up for your consideration pertains to how we as human beings see one another. There is an interesting account of the prophet Samuel being sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king of Israel due to the present king’s disobedience. We know this new king to be David the son of Jesse the Bethelemite. This account if found in I Samuel chapter 16.
Samuel did not know which son of Jesse he was supposed to anoint as king. The message God gave to him was that He would let him know which of Jesse’s sons he was supposed to anoint. Jesse had eight sons. When the eldest son passed before Samuel, he thought to himself, surely the Lord would anoint the oldest son, but what is recorded in the seventh verse concerning this account I hold up for your consideration. It reads, “But the Lord said to Samuel, do not look at his appearance or his physical stature, for I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
After the first seven sons of Jesse have passed before Samuel realizing that none of these sons are to be anointed king, he asks if there are any more. Jesse indicates that the youngest son is keeping the sheep. Keeping the sheep is the task of a shepherd. The shepherd, if their task is taken seriously, puts the sheep and their safety first before themselves. Leadership then must be about putting others before yourself.
When Peter, the disciple of Jesus, had denied knowing Jesus three times, Jesus is recorded to have asked Peter three times if he loved him. Each time Peter answered that he did love him, Jesus said, “If you love me then feed my sheep.” The word “pastor” derives from the Latin noun pastor which means shepherd. The shepherd leads his or her sheep to pasture, to set to grazing, to cause to eat.
So how do we see one another? Would it be possible to see ourselves as sheep? After all it is recorded in Isaiah 53:6 the following: “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned, every one, to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” You mean to tell me that no matter who I see, no matter what others look like, they are like sheep having gone astray? Does that include race, culture, language and any other differences that are unlike my own? Yes, and that means I have gone astray as well. That is why the apostle Paul's understanding that is recorded in II Corinthians chapter five is so vitally important to how we see one another. This message, I believe, we as human beings have drastically overlooked. Paul is speaking of Jesus Christ, “…and he died for all that those who live no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them who rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one after the flesh.”
Racism has dominated our world to such a degree that we as human beings continue to be blind because we would rather look on the outward appearance rather than to look on the heart of others. Due to our past behaviors there is a lot of pain and suffering that we have experienced. We would rather hold grudges toward those who have hurt us placing ourselves in self made prisons being overcome by anger seeking ways to retaliate. But you might say, “but I’m not God, only God looks on the heart.” It also says, “ With God all things are possible.”
How we see one another depends first and foremost with our relationship with God in Christ Jesus. I really didn’t understand what such a relationship would cause until an awakening took place within me that frankly continues to surprise. I promise that when you choose to offer kindness in the face of disappointing behavioral circumstances and you practice this kindness consistently, The God of Love will bless you to bring much needed healing not only to the one to whom you show this kindness, but it will bring peace and healing to you as well.