How easily we judge by appearances according to our own set expectations! The Sanhedrin wouldn’t believe Peter and John’s testimony or the miracles they performed because they knew them as “simple, uneducated” men. Earlier in the scriptures, when God sent Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king, Jesse didn’t initially even present David, because surely God chose one of the seven older brothers rather than a young sheepherder. Later, Jesus’ apostles and companions refused to believe either Mary Magdelene, who saw Jesus after he rose, or the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus, as those witnesses didn’t sufficiently fit their criteria for reliability. When Jesus finally appeared to the disciples, dispelling their doubt, he rebukes them for their refusal.
Knowing what I know on this side of the story, it’s easy for me to rebuke all of these people, too, and convince myself I would have believed if I’d been there. After all, I’ve been taught that God has a habit of speaking in unexpected ways and through unsuspecting sources. But would I? How often do I discount a message because I don’t accept the messenger? How often do I shut out other voices because I believe I know more or they don’t know enough?
In our current milieu, entire classes of people are labeled as ignorant, evil, misguided, or just wrong, rendering us incapable of hearing genuine wisdom from a member of that group. Young adults in our Church constantly experience their perspective being discounted or unheard in favor of the “seasoned veterans” who, of course, are smarter and wiser. Women often perceive that, just as in biblical times, their words carry less weight than a man’s. Surely, too, people living in poverty have little to teach those who’ve achieved success. We see it everywhere we look. Are we so blind?
So I must ask: In my life, who do I discount or shut out? Can I hear wisdom and answers from God when they are given by someone of another faith tradition? Am I open to insight from a member of another culture or race? What about when the messenger is half my age? I need to remember the scriptural message: “Not as humans see does God see, because humans see the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”
Gracious God, open my eyes that I may see your face in every person. Open my ears that I may hear your voice from unexpected mouths. Open my mind that I may perceive the movement of your Spirit. Open my heart that I may give and receive love from those I consider most unlovable. Lead me and all of us to more readily hear your Word in our world. Amen.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.