Saturday, 8 November 2008

How to see other people

After two and a half months of unemployment, I have a job :) - and a new set of people around me. Such a change has helped me to see again what God's instruction to love and serve others will actually mean in practice, and, after last month's overdose of posts on comic books (I guess I have had some time on my hands) I have decided it will be worthwhile to post on some of the lessons I have been learning. I hope it's helpful!

It struck me this morning that being dismissive of someone (ie. a family member or someone at work) is usually just a concealed form of hating them. Or at least the two are linked. It says to them “I would rather you were out of my way”. It suggests that the person not worth your attention is repulsive, someone you can abuse and treat without any compassion or grace whatsoever.

But impatience and hate are not God’s way.

The way of hate forgets that God has given us his powerful Spirit in order to love the unlovable, and to care about others in times of stress and suffering when we wouldn’t naturally do it. I think we would all do well to study Jesus’ words during his time of suffering, in the Garden and on the cross. Not only did he pray for his followers when he was in agonising fear, on the cross he chose to forgive the crowds mocking him. Giving people our love can be tough and costly, but it shows grace.

There’s one more thing that being dismissive of others shows up in us. It shows we have forgotten that every person on the earth was made in the image of God, whether or not they are becoming more like him or less. As such, we should honour that God-given dignity and beauty.

Last year I read something from CS Lewis that said that every person we meet is an eternal person, with an eternal destiny. All our friends and family, and those on our streets and in our offices and schools; every one will have one of the two eternal homes to go to. They will either be in a place of great honour for ever in the renewed world God will rule, enjoying the enormous blessings of knowing our generous God, or they will be cast out, far from love and life, suffering for ever in a place where God punishes their sin. These sobering truths remind us that we are far more than animals – we are responsible creatures, whose decisions have profound effects. We will be held accountable.

And what else can we see from the Bible about other people? They were all designed to find the most joy in life in knowing God in a relationship, and in reflecting his goodness in the world by being like him: loving others and loving the Father, making a positive impact on the society and the world, making the right moral decisions, etc. And they were all designed to rely on God in prayer; some days, when I really know the blessing of talking to God and asking him to for help and strength for every situation, I wonder how I could possibly live without this amazing gift.

In the gospel these things – a relationship with God, reliance on him, joy, changed behaviour – can come to anyone. And they bring real hope and fullness of life, whether that is to a business-obsessed young professional, a struggling council estate family or your most awkward work colleague! All the blessings that God has for believers can come to any one of the people you know through the double-punch package of the gospel and God’s Spirit. Happy days!

So next time you are tempted to sidestep that whining adolescent or talkative pensioner who you don’t think is worth your time – think again about the God who created them to reflect his glory. Think about their eternal destiny. And, perhaps most of all, think about the love shown by Jesus on the cross.

Pic above right: Some Bulgarian students helping a (quite poor) town by renovating the park. I was there and got involved by visiting an inspiring old lady who was ill and lonely and loved the company. These are some examples of how we can love the overlooked in our society. Pray for those pictured to become Christians and for their friends in a country where there has been official opposition to Christian groups.

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