I have worn glasses since I was in the third grade. The day I got them I remember two things: 1) I didn’t want to look like a dork (this was before the days when black-rimmed glasses gave a person a certain amount of hipster cred) and 2) Man, I could actually see things!
Initially, I hated my glasses. I hated the way I thought people saw me. I thought people would see me as a nerd. I thought people would see me as a bookworm. I thought people would see me as weak. I thought people would see me a certain way, so I didn’t wear my glasses all the time. I was so focused on the way people SAW me that I forgot how important it was that I could SEE.
We live in such a divided culture. Every time I scroll through my Facebook timeline or my Twitter feed I see a series of stories articulating emotional diatribes about how one group of society is evil and will be responsible for the downfall of Western civilization… none of these articles are sent by the actual authors mind you, but rather someone who, on some level, agrees in part, at least, with some sentiment expressed and hits “share”. As a result, we blindly treat others in our virtual circles of influence as a collection of issues rather than treating people as people. We define ourselves (at least in Social Media Land) as an advocate for an agenda to which the rest of the world should listen because “we have it ALL figured out.” We don’t think of ourselves as having anything to learn. We don’t think of middle grounds. There are issues, and there are agendas, and there are platforms, and there are political parties ,and there are sides. There are no people. There are no stories. There are no souls. We are quick to point out the sin in others without looking too closely at ourselves. We like “our brand” of sin. We don’t like “your brand” of sin. We certainly never ask questions about why one person thinks their sin is ok and our sin is not.
We are issue-focused and agenda-obsessed.
When I open up the pages of Scripture, the Bible has a lot to say about sin. It has a lot to say about the issues we face. There are definitive rights and wrongs. At the same time there are people, and when Jesus dealt with people, that’s how he saw them: as people, not merely as a collection of issues. He respectfully and graciously talked to people from all walks of life – from the religious elite like Nicodemus, to social pariahs like Zacchaeus, to overly-amped cleaners like Martha, to the physically mangled lepers. Jesus talked and listened. He corrected if needed but only after focusing on the person and the relationship.
I have to examine my own heart sometimes. Do I see people as people or as the issues they carry around? How do you see others? Are others only as good as their political or ideological leanings? Or are we willing to adjust our focus and say of every single person with whom we come in contact, “That person is made in the image of God – just like me, that person is a sinner – just like me, Jesus died for that person – just like me, that person deserves respect – just like me…”
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – Romans 12:16-18