Ranil, originally from Sri Lanka, is a hard-working businessman and a devoted father. He has worked in countries around the world and for the last few years has made his home in Canada. Ranil has a peaceful spirit, compassionate heart, and a love for Jesus that is patently obvious in everything he does. Coming out of the Hindu religion, Ranil met Jesus and his life was changed completely. He is a pastor and an evangelist, with a gift for sharing the gospel. Unfortunately, he finds that many white Christians see only his colour and make judgements about him that are entirely wrong. He wishes they would just talk to him.
Sophie is a mid-class, suburban housewife with a lovely family and a devoted husband. They attend a growing, charismatic church in the city and she leads a cell group in her home during the week. Sophie is a prayer warrior and she wears her faith on her sleeve for everyone to see. By nature, she has a strong personality and a positive attitude. Some of her struggling coworkers would love to have what Sophie has, but they think her apparently perfect life puts her out of touch with their problems. So they keep their distance. What they don’t know is that Sophie has a family member who is not following the Lord and on whom she has spent many tears, prayers and sleepless nights. Sophie herself needs support and prayer from others. She wishes they would just talk to her.
Joy has been singing Jesus music since she was two. She grew up on stage and knows how to dress, look, sing and talk like a Southern Gospel diva. Joy gave her heart to the Lord when she was little and has had some challenges over the years, but has learned that her struggles come second to the main goal of sharing her faith every night to an audience full of observant spectators. She doesn’t really have an aptitude for business, so she has other Christian businesspeople that manage and direct her career. Their choices aren’t always the best but overall she trusts them and prays that God will continue to direct them as He directs her path. People at times look at this direction and decide that Joy must no longer be serving the Lord, or perhaps isn’t even a Christian. Because she is a public figure, these negative comments often are made on a public forum and hurt her deeply. She wishes they would just talk to her.
Pete is a strong Christian with an outgoing, vibrant personality. Spending most of his life in sales, Pete knows what to say and how to say it to get the results he wants. He has done this so long, he often doesn’t even know he does it anymore. Pete is single and as he enters his 40th year he often wonders where the person is that the Lord wants him to spend the rest of his life with. People are whispering, questioning his orientation. As straight as they come, Pete has had a string of girlfriends but they never seem to work out. He has left behind him many broken hearts and each relationship has taken away a piece of his heart as well. He has hundreds of Facebook friends and they think he has the perfect life and is the life of the party. Sometimes he believes their perception and finds another girl to hang on his arm. Other times he sees a life of loneliness and endless work hours ahead and the crushing depression brings him to his knees. Most of his friends just want “fun Pete” around and wouldn’t want to see him like this, so during these times he keeps away from others. He wishes they would just talk to him.
Three of these people do not exist in reality; they are a mixture of various people I have come across in life. But so often we look at the appearance of people, or what others have said about them, and we form decisions about what they are like that are erroneous. Jesus warned so often about not judging others, just in case they judged us in the same way. If you were judged at this moment by how you appear, what would people say about you?
In the past I often made decisions in my mind about the extent of someone’s commitment to Christ, because I felt I was being discerning and looking at the fruit of their Christian experience. Sometimes, however, even that fruit can be deceiving. The Scriptures also talk about people preaching the gospel out of differing motives, and the Word does not return void. I look back at some of the judgments I made against people without even talking to them, getting to know their hearts. I could be so wrong.
We are told in the Word that if we have something against someone, we need to go to him or her first before doing anything else. If we find out who they are and where their heart is, that would go a long way in resolving issues. A lot of the time when we judge someone’s heart by their appearance, it comes down to an issue of our own pride. Perhaps we feel intimidated by their success and want to find ‘a chink in the armor’. Or perhaps we feel their Christian experience isn’t as deep as ours and we want to expose them for who we think they really are. Either way, it is an ego issue.
My friend Ranil, (not his real name), has a very down-to-earth view of Christianity. He says that we need to look at sharing our faith as just “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread”. When it comes right down to it, we are all beggars. The ground is level at the Cross and as soon as we start exalting ourselves above another, that is when we find out quickly that the Lord will not have anyone exalted. The only One worthy of our exaltation and praise is God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are the redeemed, we have been saved from the fire and brought out of the pit; without Him we are nothing. Who are we to exalt ourselves, especially by bringing down a brother or sister in Christ?
I pray today that we would begin to act more like the Body of Christ and accept each other’s differences. We may not minister the way they do, we may not pray or talk or act or look the way someone else does, but God hasn’t made us from a cookie-cutter. May we learn to accept and love the differences in each other, and discover who these other people really are that we will be living with in Heaven. Eternity is a long time. Let’s start loving each other now.