This is not a “put on your rose-colored glasses” article. In fact, it may be the opposite. I want you to consider that Jesus spent 3 years correcting the disciples’ vision – vision therapy if you will. He was specifically training them to see the world differently, in a new light, through a new lens. You see, Jesus was training His disciples to see the world, His creation and His children, the way He sees it.
Scenario A: Sit with me in the corner of the high school cafeteria and let’s take a moment to take in our surroundings. Look across the sea of bobble-heads and you’ll find many conversations taking place among friends, plenty of faces peering into illuminated screens, several heads cloaked in hoodies or headphones, cafeteria workers who get little recognition, invisible janitorial staff, and hallways still swimming with more students. If you peel back the surface layer, you’ll notice something everyone in this picture has in common. As I scan the room, I feel impressed upon my spirit that everyone here is hurting. Broken in some kind of way. Whether young or old, straight A student or flunking, popular or not – all these people are struggling with something. And the saddest part of it is… nobody seems to know. (We don’t tend to share selfies of our struggles – that doesn’t make us popular.) Questions flood my heart: What kind of home life are they going home to today? What’s their passion and goal in life? Who crushed her heart this time? Why is he trying so hard to be accepted? Does he know his Father loves him? Has she ever looked in the mirror and seen a daughter of God?
Scenario B: Now, join me as I’m out and about running my usual errands. Let’s take this moment at a busy red light, not to check our phone or make-up, but to simply pay attention. As I watch countless cars of strangers buzzing by, each on their own mission to somewhere, they all appear to be unaware of the other buzzing strangers around them. As some pull up next to me, I can peer in to see worn out faces, or even upset shouting gestures to the other end of the phone. With each passerby, I wonder: What’s rocking their world today? Are they living a life of guilt and fear, or freedom? Why is she so upset? Does he have anyone he can trust? Do they truly stand for what their bumper sticker says or is it just trendy? Does she know that Jesus loves her? Does he know he’s a son of God? Do they know they have purpose and meaning? When’s the last time someone prayed with him? Hugged her?
We live in a hurting world, with sin, death, and disease. A world of broken hearts, broken homes, and broken dreams. People are drowning in their finances, relationships, you name it. And yet, we all pretend we’re fine and continue masquerading in our solo parades. It doesn’t matter the price of our car, the size of our house, the amount of likes and retweets, the ring on our finger, or the number of employees under us, we’re all in this boat together. Sadly, we too easily get busy in our own little world and develop tunnel vision (where we’re the only one in the tunnel).
Jesus was teaching His disciples to see the world outside of themselves. To see people… as, people. As children the Father desperately seeks to know. To not identify people by their past mistakes or present circumstances, but by God’s desire and purpose for their future.
I love when we see the emotional side of our Creator throughout scripture. The first act of compassion we see is recorded in Genesis 2:18 when God recognized His child was lonely and gives Adam the gift of a companion. Soon after, we witness another often over-looked compassionate moment toward our young couple when God knits a covering to hide their nakedness and embarrassing attempt of leaf-skirts (Gen 3:7,21). And like Father, like Son, we see repeatedly that Jesus was moved to action by the compassion He felt for people. From the individual one-on-ones (Luke 7:13) to entire crowds (Matt 9:35-36), Jesus refused to ignore people living in brokenness, without hope. His desire is for everyone to know and experience the love of the Father.
Let us be reminded that Jesus:
fed the hungry
healed the sick
delivered the outcast
ate with scum
reclined with fishermen
touched the unclean
defended the prostitute
mended the broken
restored the fallen
saved the sinner
That’s to name a few… The point is: we serve a compassionate God, who sent His Son not to be served but to love broken people in a broken world (Mark 10:45). Too often, Christians get comfortable attending our weekly country club and we start forgetting about the down-and-outs (those that Jesus was often found with). Sometimes we even forget that we used to be one of those down-and-outs before Jesus came into our lives. Remember, Christ commissioned us to serve “the least of these” (Matt 25:40).
It’s time for believers to be moved by compassion again. To stop pretending we have it all together and to stop thinking we’re better than anyone else. Don’t be deceived, there’s plenty of broken and hurting inside the church too, but it’s time the church starts breaching its own walls and not be confined to pews in a bubble.
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
Whether they’re standing, sitting, or lying down, always get on their level. They’re used to people looking down on them. Treat them as a real human being. While volunteering at a homeless shelter in Atlanta, our site coordinator said something that really stuck with me. While preparing us for different scenarios we were about to encounter, he emphasized that whether the person is standing, sitting, or even lying down, always get on their level. They’re used to people looking down on them. So, make eye contact when you talk to them, ask their name, treat them as a real human being. Have meaningful conversations with them (they have real lives, families, and stories), and always drive it to a point of prayer. It wasn’t about a handout. It was about sharing Christ in a real, meaningful, tangible, and intentional way.
Unfortunately, living in a culture that’s all about looking out for #1, it’s easy for us to overlook others or discount them if they don’t offer us benefits. But, this is nothing new. In fact, we see the disciples themselves took a little time to get adjusted to their new lenses.
It’s not about putting on a fake smile. It’s not just about being kind or starting a “love chain” at your favorite drive-thru. It’s about getting intentional with people, willing to get uncomfortable, and cutting through the cultural norm for the sake of the gospel. It means interrupting what you’re doing to comfort someone, to mourn with those who mourn (Rom 12:15). It means bending down to pray for a stranger, to see him walk again (Acts 3:6). It means opening your home to help the desperate. It means delivering someone from the darkness in their life. It means extending grace and forgiveness and compassion. It means being a beacon of hope, an overpowering light in the dark world in which we live (Matt 5:14).
Father, may we see people as You see them, as You created them to be. May we be filled with the compassion and love You have for those that are made in Your image. Let us see the world through Your eyes, and may the world see You in us.