Outward Appearance

6When they arrived, [Samuel] saw Eliab, and he said, “Surely this is YHWH’s anointed!” 7But YHWH said to Samuel, “Don’t look at his appearance, nor at how tall he is, for I have rejected him. For people don’t see the way God sees, for people look at the outside, but YHWH looks at the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:6-7

Sunday night Jody and I watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and the house they were rebuilding was for the family of a remarkable young man, Patrick Henry Hughes. He was born with a number of physical abnormalities. One of these was that he had no eyes. He was asked about this “disability” on the show, and he said that he doesn’t think of it as a disability, but as an ability. People who can see tend to look at the outward appearance, but he is never tempted to do that, because he can’t.

I wonder how many of us would regard that as a gift rather than a burden? The problem is that we are very much dependent on our sense of sight, and we judge many things based on what we see, often quite quickly. “Love at first sight” is nice when it works, but often there is love at first sight, and it starts to deteriorate with the second look.

Then there are those that we reject because of the way they look. We think they are less intelligent, less wise, less important, or just lesser people because of their appearance. I doubt that we can completely detach ourselves from such reactions.

There’s a humorous ad about talking stains. There is even a web site mytalkingstain.com where you can go and see the ad. A poor young man is being interviewed for a job, but what he says about himself is drowned out by what the stain is telling the interviewer. Of course, the solution is to buy the product advertised and get rid of the talking stain.

Now I’m not suggesting that we all forget about our appearance. There is good appearance that is the surface for something good that is underneath. You can have a whitewashed tomb, as Jesus mentioned, that is white on the outside, but inside is filled with dead people’s bones. On the other hand you can have a solid wall for your house that is covered in whitewash.

As Christians we are called upon not to judge (Matthew 7:1), but in the same we’re told that we’ll know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). One difference between these two verses is that seeing the fruit takes a lot longer. You can’t make instant judgments.

Give others a chance; let God guide!

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