A couple of weeks ago, in a Highland Shepherds meeting, Jerry Taylor came by to give us a vision that he had. It was a vision of a day when churches everywhere were not some of the most segregated places in the world. It was a passionate and compelling vision, but what I thought was interesting was why he said this is something that we needed to do. He said it was Gospel work.
So right now we are in a Disney phase in the Storment house. It’s princess this and princess that (Eden is even starting to get involved). Last week, I was watching Beauty and the Beast with Eden. It was great watching her eyes light up when the dishes sang and danced, and as I remembered, it was a Disney movie with a story. The pretty, young Belle learns that it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, it what is on the inside that counts. She learns to look past the cosmetic differences and finds beauty under the Beast.
Sometime ago, I met a person who was severely handicapped. They had a life-threatening medical condition they developed as a child, and now it was obvious that this person would never have what most people consider a normal life again. This person had severe and irreparable damage to their eyes and mouth. The brain damage made it to where her speech was slurred and her thoughts jumbled.
As we visited, I began to understand that she had undergone over a dozen brain surgeries from the time that she was a little girl to remove a tumor and with each surgery, a normal life just slipped further and further away. And that’s when I started to wonder, if Eden was one day in this situation, how would I want someone to treat her? How would I want someone to see her?
There is a story in 1st Samuel that a lot of us already know. The reigning King Saul, is being replaced, and the prophet Samuel is headed to the family of Jesse to anoint the new guy. The problem is that Jesse has got plenty of sons, so Samuel’s not quite sure who he’s supposed to douse with oil. But, he is quite sure, who he’s not.
But that’s before God speaks some of the most significant words in the Scriptures. He tells Samuel that the very guy that he’s assumed doesn’t need to be King because of his appearance is the one who will rule next. But then God says,
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Now chances are, you’ve heard that verse before, but think about the implications of this verse. Because the truth is that God is spot on. That’s exactly how we see and gauge people. We look at the outside. But this isn’t just a verse about how to choose the right King to ordain. It’s a verse about how to be fully human.
Think about Jesus for a second. Most of us are compelled by the way he was able to interact and treat people, especially those who the Bible calls, “The Least of These.” But take the romanticism out of that concept for a second. Jesus was interacting with lepers, I’ve been to a leper colony and I have an idea of what that looks like. People are disfigured, there was a smell. But this is one of the greatest ways that Jesus shows us what God looks like. Because Jesus doesn’t see that. He sees them.
Which brings me back to Beauty and the Beast, I’m watching that movie with Eden and all of a sudden it dawns on me. This movie isn’t really that great of a moral after all. Think about the end of it. The princess loves the Beast, and he transforms into a handsome prince. The moral of the story isn’t that it’s not what is on the outside that counts. But look past the outside long enough and it will transform into something more appealing.
Which explains why Leslie keeps trying to make me work out.
Now this isn’t to knock Disney, it’s just to reinforce what God already said, We look at the outside appearance. But unfortunately we just don’t see that well into the future. Because, and here’s where Beauty and Beast gets it right, we will one day be transformed. Maybe not into the handsome prince, but into the perfect reflection of God that is imbedded in each person right now.
I like the way C.S. Lewis talks about this, “”It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
And maybe that’s why Jerry Taylor calls fighting racism Gospel work. Because central to the Gospel is the realization that we are not so easily summarized by the way we appear. Beneath our cosmetic differences, beats a heart, one that God is extremely interested in. And in the new Heavens and the New Earth we will see that way too.