One of the most dangerous tendencies of every human being is to mentally divide people into categories of people. It’s dangerous because half the time we don’t even know we’re doing it. Christians are particularly good at this; and yet, acting on this tendency is perilous to the Christian life. Breaking down this framework isn’t easy but it is necessary if we are going to live as Christ called us to live. The truth is, these mentally constructed categories don’t exist. There is not a distinction
between who is my neighbor and who is not–Jesus told us this explicitly and yet for some reason we still don’t get it.
Everyone is our neighbor.
When we start thinking this way it changes how we interact with people. And this is important because that guy who waited on you last night at the restaurant . . . that girl that cut your hair . . . they’re not just some waiter . . . or some hairdresser . . . they’re people. People who may be struggling . . . hurting . . . waiting for someone, anyone, to talk to. But when we label them by what they do we cease to see them as persons; persons who are infinitely precious, incredibly valuable, and unceasingly loved by God–and for this very reason they should also mean that much to us. Because every person is objectively valuable. As Christians we should recognize this but we don’t. We’re all human and we’re all in this together and the gospel is the gospel not just for me and my friends at Church but for the man who brings my mail . . . the woman who rings up my coffee . . . and that guy that asked for directions.
I have done a great job forgetting this truth. I am really good at valuing things, tasks, or even ideas, more than people. But how we view people, and how we interact with people, impacts our entire worldview. And our worldview impacts how we live our lives. And our lives as Christians impact the way the world views Christ. And sometimes the picture of Christ that we’re showing the world isn’t so Christ-like.
So how do live this truth day-to-day?
I think this can be very practically applied by remembering to look into people rather than at people. As a society we’ve constructed all these boundaries, “oh man I can’t look into that person’s eyes because they’re a stranger” and so we try to avoid people we don’t know whenever possible. And if we absolutely must confront a stranger, say at the check out or to give directions, we try our best to keep the conversation an interaction with the subject rather than an interaction with the person.
For instance, the other day there was a knock on our door. It was an outdoor salesman who wanted to assess our lawn for treatment. We politely declined and he went on his way. That evening, after a party we hosted for my mom’s birthday, we saw the same salesman wandering back down our road. He looked a little lost. My wife turned to me and asked if we could invite him in for a piece of cake. And just like that, my wife demonstrated to me what a truly Christian worldview looks like. The guy walking down the road ceased to be merely a salesman to me and became a person.
While he ate his cake we were able to talk about life, family, and God. The conversation was a tremendous encouragement to me–it was the manifestation of what God has been teaching me about personal interactions. About forty-five minutes later he walked back out our front door with two extra pieces of cake for him and his wife and my phone number securely tucked in the contacts of his phone; and just like, when the salesman was allowed to walk through my front door he ceased to be a salesman and became a friend.
This is the kind of attitude we should have with everyone. And I struggle with this. We hold the keys to our house. We can open the door or slam it shut. We can let people into our lives or we can leave them out in the cold. But when we leave them in the cold we’re also shutting Jesus out with them.
In an earlier post I talked about showing Christ by suffering . . . By loving everyone not just those that love us . . . and this post is kind of complementary to it in the sense that we shouldn’t focus only on loving one of two extremes: our brother or enemy . . . We also need to remember that those people with whom we have casual interactions are people that we are called to love. And the first step to loving these people is to see them as people. He’s not just a waiter . . . She’s not just a hairdresser . . . He’s not just a salesman . . .
This is hard because we have these interactions all the time and we often find them unremarkable. But when someone does something in love to us we think, man, I love that person . . . Or when someone does something that makes us really angry we think, man, Jesus said I need to love that guy. But what about those people that do neither of these things? We tend to forget them; we’re not supposed to forget to love them but we often do.
I have failed to love my neighbor by failing to see my neighbor as a person instead of a title. I failed by categorizing people. I have failed by looking through my neighbor to my end goal: checking out at the store . . . getting my coffee . . . or just getting home sooner . . . Lord, forgive me.
This post was written by Ben Cabe. To find the original post, go to: http://www.bencabe.com/theology-spirituality/treating-people-like-human-beings
BE A MAN.