A few years ago we were at the airport in Boston on our way to visit family in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In the gate area was a couple with a young kid. Naturally, this young kid noticed our boys playing with their cars on the floor and made an effort to be noticed. On one of us was wearing a shirt that said “Cape Cod” on it. Trying to make conversation, the man said to us, “oh, were you just vacationing there?” We replied, “no, we live there.” To my surprise the guy said, “oh” and abruptly walked away.
More recently we were at a beach during the summer months. We prefer the beaches on Cape Cod Bay because they are calmer for the kids. Plus, when the tide is low you are able to let the kids run through all the tidal pools and not worry about them drowning. We are not from here originally, so we sort of look like tourists. On this day a lady from out-of-state said something to us. Wouldn’t you know it, she asked, “so, where are you from?” Our reply, “Oh, we live just up the road in town here.” Again, the response was, “oh” and the conversation ended.
When I go to youth conferences, it will say on my name tag that I am from Cape Cod. I don’t know how many people will make a comment about the mansion I supposedly live in. I do not live in a mansion and my neighbors don’t either. I know it might shock some people but there are homeless people on Cape Cod. There are many people who struggle to make ends meet and ask for help. I know this because I have talked with them when they have come to the church asking for help. There are broken homes, broken people and the same sorts of depravity people face in every other place in the world. But, because so many view it as a vacation destination, people who live here must be on a never-ending vacation.
People have their ideas about just about everything, whether they actually know the truth or not. When people ask me what I do, I don’t immediately tell them I am a pastor because sometimes that can be a conversation killer. I will tell them that I work with youth and will ease my way to the actual title. The reason is there are so many preconceived notions about what a pastor is.
This happens too often with people. How often do people go out of their way to avoid someone because of how they look? How much is assumed about someone just because of what family they come from or what they do for a living? But, do we take the time to find out?
Everyone has a story to tell and they will tell it, if you ask. I have had kids come to youth group who have had some very rough lives. They look like they have had rough lives and they talk like it. Do we avoid them? Absolutely not! We talk with them, ask them questions and help them see that people do care more about who they are than how they look.
Take the story, from Luke 19, of Zacchaeus as an example of this. We know that Zacchaeus was a tax collector and was wealthy. The truth of it was that he probably wasn’t all that honest and he probably wasn’t liked. In fact, the community at large probably just wrote him off as some no good criminal. But, there was more to him than that. Jesus was going to bring salvation to his home and he would be completely changed.
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost – Luke 19:9-10
That’s what Jesus does for us. He doesn’t look at us and judge us because our hair is too long or we have the wrong type of clothing on. Jesus looks at each person as a valuable person for whom he came to give eternal life. It doesn’t matter if you are from Cape Cod or Hawaii, God sent Jesus to save and seek the lost. That means all of the lost, not just the ones that look the way we think they should. That means that people who have different worldviews or who have more money than you matter to God.
You see, I think we need to make a greater effort to not make up our mind before we even meet someone. Part of the adventure of each day could be the new people you will meet. And, just maybe, God wants to use you to bring salvation to the home of someone. I know I don’t want to miss that and the person ready to receive it will be glad you obeyed!
Time to see people and to stop just seeing people.