Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11
I'm a reader. Always have been.
In 4th grade I had 200 AR points by Christmas. If you don't know what this means, just know this is a very impressive feat of reading all the time instead of doing other important things. Like homework, cleaning up my room, minding my mother, the list could go on. (Now would be an appropriate time to apologize to my mom for hiding in a corner and reading instead of cleaning my room. I'm truly sorry... kind of. I really enjoyed those books.)
As if getting that many AR points by Christmas wasn't hard enough, (never hurts to toot your own horn when talking about your childhood, right?) what truly makes this amazing is how picky of a reader I was. My mom always said, "You can't judge a book by it's cover," but my superior 10 year old mind knew that was just plain silly. Of course you can judge a book by the aesthetic appeal, or lack there of, and decide immediately whether the story that went along with it was worth getting emotionally invested in or not. (Although I'm not sure I had those exact thoughts as a 10 year old. It was probably more like "That looks ugly. The story is boring. Moving on.")
So, as I sit here at Panera Bread in Phoenix and think about how thankful I am I outgrew judging a book by it's cover, I am humbled to my core by the realization that I no longer judge books like this. I judge people like this. In my 23 young years I have accumulated a set of assumptions to go along with certain "covers." Very rarely do I ever think about the "story" that goes along with these "covers."
I see the beautiful girl sitting opposite of me in the bleachers at a Spring Training game with the designer purse, the sunglasses, perfect skin, fit body and perfect mani/pedi and immediately assume I know her "story" based on a quick glance at her "cover." In this way I have placed her into a category (which in my opinion is a form of dehumanizing) and have therefore relieved myself of feeling obligated to go share my life with her and find out about her's.
Because since I think I know her story, I assume we have nothing in common besides baseball. Since I am assuming, based on her "cover," that nothing is wrong in her life I decide it is unnecessary for me to share about my Jesus who binds the brokenhearted with her. Besides, I have trouble trusting Jesus with Brandon's career. How am I suppose to share truth and hope with this girl?
"My strength will be made known through your weakness." - Jesus
I see the man (or boy - it's often hard to tell from afar) sleeping in the shade at the park with a dirty backpack on and a few layers of ragged clothing on. With a quick glance at his "cover" I assume I know his "story." In this way I have placed him into a category (which in my opinion is a form of dehumanizing) and have therefore relieved myself of feeling obligated to go share my life with him and find out about his.
Because I think I know his "story," I assume we have nothing in common. Then, I assume based off of his "cover" that there are so many things wrong in his life that it is unnecessary for me to share about or show Jesus to him because he appears almost too broken. Besides, I don't have the time or resources to meet any of his physical needs. How am I suppose to share truth and hope with this guy?
"And the first shall be last, and the last shall be first." - Jesus
So just like that, twice in the same day, I have judged a book by its cover. But now the consequence is not just missing out on reading a good story. No, the consequences now are much heavier. It is missing out on being a part of someone's God story. Because of the categories I placed each person in based on their "cover" I forgot that a each has a story.
Maybe the girl dreamed of this kind of life as child but now that she has it realizes that it can not fulfill her and is more confused and hurt than ever before. Maybe the guy never dreamed he would be the guy without a home but with a nasty addiction and has realized that it can not fulfill him but doesn't know there is hope.
The last job I have is judging whether or not people need or deserve to hear about the hope of Jesus's love. The first (and I would argue only important) job I have is listening to the Holy Spirit and telling people about Jesus's love and showing them Jesus's love - even if that looks different to each different person.
May we seek to be a part of people's story today, not judge it by their cover.