The other day I was driving into work listening to the news on the radio. This was a mistake. I usually listen to podcasts or music but this particular day I needed a traffic report and so had the news channel on. While waiting for the traffic reporter to tell me what I already knew, the station did a report in which they interviewed a state legislator. As soon as this man started talking my dislike of him registered. The more he talked the more my dislike grew. By the time the interview was over I was convinced this man was pure evil and was out to destroy the state.
What happened to me? I don’t even know this man and could not even tell you his name. But in that moment I was convinced not only that he was wrong – but that his motives were malevolent. Was he even human?
Of course he is human. He has a name, a family, a history. But in those few moments of listening to an edited interview, I removed his humanness and made him into a caricature. Worse yet, I had forgotten a foundational truth of scripture: we are ALL created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27)
I am convinced that if we are going to grow in discipleship, if we are going to develop in Christ-likeness, if we are going to do our part in bringing in the kingdom of God, then we MUST learn to see the imprint of the divine in others. Jesus reminds us that when the end of time comes, we will be judged on the way we reacted when he came to us hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in prison, and yes, even when he came to us as a stranger. (Matthew 25)
Think about that. Our final judgment is going to be based upon how we saw Christ in others and how we reacted with compassion and mercy and love.
One of my favorite writers, Richard Rhor, says: “When we can see the image of God where we are not accustomed to seeing the image of God, then we see with eyes not our own.” But here is the problem. There are places in our lives where we are accustomed to seeing God and places where we are not. When this happens we lock ourselves into a belief that WE know where God is and what God looks like. It becomes easier to see the image of God where we expect it and harder to see that image in places we don’t. What’s worse is the way this “not seeing” creates in us a belief that the image of God just does not exist in some people. Of course we would never say that – but our actions betray us.
We need to start seeing what we don’t expect to see. We need to find a way to look beyond first impressions and stereotypes. We need to find a way to notice people that go unnoticed. What we need – are new eyes.
Try this. As you go through your day ask God to show you the divine imprint in at least one person. Ask God to help you notice God’s image in someone – anyone. It may be the homeless man asking for change at the red light. It could be your barista or the person who hands over your meal through the drive-through window. It could be the woman cleaning your hotel room who speaks no English. It might even be a presidential candidate – or a state legislator.
And then, hopefully, little by little we will develop these new eyes. And when that happens – watch out. The world will be a different place.