Thursday, October 09, 2008
Current Study: People Who Made a Difference
Today’s Topic: Looking Past Appearances
Today’s Scripture: Joshua 2:1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
Several days ago I was enjoying breakfast with some friends and family at my favorite restaurant. While we were waiting for our food, a young man and woman walked in and sat down at the booth next to our table. I must confess to an immediate internal reaction of pride that manifested itself in judgmentalism. He was covered in tattoos, had multiple piercings, and had earlobes that had been pierced and the holes stretched so they held two inch discs. His girlfriend was equally pierced and tattooed, except for the ears. As I sat at the table I found that I had formed a pretty solid opinion of who these people were just by their appearance. I was amazed and ashamed at how quickly I jumped to conclusions.
As we continued to talk at our table, I overheard the young man say, “I just can’t decide whether I want the Palm 800 or the new Blackberry.” Instantly I knew I could offer him some advice, since I have had both. I thought about how I would approach him to give him my information that would help him make a decision. Then the Holy Spirit brought down the hammer. I suddenly realized that this was a man of normal mentality, normal desires, and normal goals for life. But I had judged him by his appearance and deemed him to be different. So different, in fact, that I wanted to alienate myself from him rather than draw close to him.
Suddenly the Holy Spirit was showing me that he could use anyone from any background and of any appearance if they only had someone tell them the most vital of all information, the love of Jesus Christ for sinners. I sat there almost in a trance for the next few minutes, imaging what my church people would think if this man walked into church some Sunday. Many would probably judge him by his appearance the same way I did. I was ashamed. Why is it, I wondered, that we respond to people based on their past rather than their potential? Now I knew that I must talk to him. I would not necessarily talk to him about faith, but I would force myself to look beyond his exterior to the need that he had expressed, and I would meet that need. While doing that I would pray that he would see in me the love of Jesus.
When our meal was over, I stood up and moved two steps over to his table. I excused myself, and apologized for interrupting their breakfast. I told him I had overheard his concern about cell phones, and that I had owned both. I shared my experience with each one and gave him my advice. He thanked me, and I walked away. As I did, I overheard him say to his girlfriend, “That was sure nice of him to do that.” Mission accomplished. How God will use that in his life is up to Him. How God used it in my life is making a difference.
When the men of Israel went to Jericho to spy out the city, little did they know that God had been preparing the way for them. He had been bringing fear upon the people because of His previous displays of power on behalf of the Israelites. These two men chose an inconspicuous way to enter the city – they went to the home of a prostitute. They had no intention or forethought that this person was a potential convert. They thought that her need for money would result in their safety. They were only looking out for themselves. But God had other plans. God had prepared her heart to be His follower. The spies responded with the love of God. She would be accepted and rescued when the city was attacked. Her past meant nothing any more. Only what God was going to do with her mattered. It mattered so much that when we read the lineage of the life of Jesus, we will find Rahab mentioned. She was the great, great grandmother of King David.
What a lesson for all of us to learn. The people we think are the most deserving of judgment are the ones most needful of God’s grace. We can make a huge difference if we will just learn to extend God’s grace to them. The spies did that for Rahab. Ananias did that for Saul after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Barnabas did it for Saul when he arrived in Jerusalem. Peter learned he must do it for the Gentiles and went to the home of Cornelius. Ultimately Jesus did it for each one of us. We must be more convinced of the power of God to save than we are of the power of a person’s past to condemn. We must start making a difference for Jesus by joining Him in His mission to make a difference in people’s souls, no matter what they have done or what they look like. After all, is anyone more undeserving than we were?