Are you a people-watcher?
I sometimes marvel at the variety of shapes, sizes, attitudes, behaviors, and fashion choices I see in the world around me. In my younger days, I hastily evaluated people using a mental checklist that neatly stereotyped people into tidy categories.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but these were my categories:
- well-dressed, prissy pots who thought they were better than everyone else,
- tattooed teens with outlandish garb swaggering as if they were the toughest of all,
- unruly children purposely seeking attention, eager to cause as much of a ruckus as possible, and
- the tattered homeless looking for an angle to get a handout.
I’ve ripped up my checklist now because God changed my heart. Stereotypes rarely consider the big picture. So, what changed me?
I heard the stories of hundreds of hurting school children, ladies in drug rehab, and inmates in our local jail. I’ve had my heart broken by stories of unspeakable horror, abuse, neglect, and poverty. I’ve seen the effects of mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and physical/mental abuse. Yes, some of the hurting have made exceptionally poor choices and are now reaping the consequences, but so have I, and so have you.
I realize I’m on my soapbox, but I’m hoping you’ll step up here with me because we could all use some compassion these days. However, please don’t think compassion comes easy for me. I struggle daily with trying to figure out how to love the unlovable – one in particular. For now, let’s try to remember that we don’t know everyone’s backstory.
What if that woman so flawlessly put together, allowed you to listen in on the conversation she has with herself? Would her insecurities surprise you?
Just imagine what could happen if we saw the outlandish teen at Wal-Mart as someone who had just endured a beating from his dad that morning for not cleaning his room? Would we be willing to at least offer a smile?
What if we looked into the eyes of the trouble-making girl whose mother was busier selling herself for drug money than caring for her? Could we find a way to offer some hope?
It was a homeless man who opened my 13-year-old eyes to my need for a Savior. What if … what if … he had been an angel in disguise sent to transform my heart, and I ignored him?
If our eyes could see past all the gruff exteriors, could we choose to replace our stereotypes with compassion? When we do, I think we’ll become a little more like Jesus.
Then the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center.
“Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
“The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”
When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center.
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Lord.”
“NEITHER DO I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
(John 8:3-5,7b, 9-11, CSB)