Then and now

Look at a piece of coal, and what do you see? Merely a piece of coal, a bit of fuel for grilling burgers? Or do you see the plants and processes that made that coal? Do you see fire to forge a plow; and the crops that will follow in season; and the families those crops will feed; and the teachers, artists, physicians, researchers who will be raised in those families and whose contributions will enrich succeeding generations? There’s more to coal than meets the eye. What you see often depends on what you’re looking for.

What did the Sadducees see in the woman they conjured up in their discussion with Jesus (Luke 20:27-38)? A rhetorical device to prove their point that there is no resurrection? A trap to help them get the better of Jesus? A piece of property that would be passed from husband to husband like a stock certificate, whose only value was to increase the wealth and status of her husband? Was that all she was to them? Did she have no name, no fears, no hopes and aspirations of her own?

Whatever those Sadducees saw when they looked at her, Jesus saw something more, much more. He saw her as someone worthy of a place in the resurrection from the dead, like the angels, a child of God, a child of the resurrection (Luke 20:34-36). She was a person with her own identity and value, a value independent of her utility to others, someone stamped with the very image of the living God.

In the beginning she was hardly worth noticing; in the end she was worthy of a place in heaven. Then she was no one; now she was someone. As Peter wrote in his first letter, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:10). Then you were no one of much interest; now you are someone worthy of the love of God. Then and now. What a difference a slight shift in perspective can make.

Recall if you can the first time you were treated as if you were someone, not a child to be seen and not heard but a person with a viewpoint, an opinion worth considering, a life worth living. Who first looked at you that way? How did it make you feel? How did it change your life? Can you imagine for a moment how it might change someone else’s life if you were to look at them that way?

God says to us: Love everyone; value everyone; treat everyone as if they are fundamentally essential for the wholeness of creation and for your own wholeness, too. Most of the world is filled with people-users, people like those Sadducees who valued that unnamed woman only for her utility to others. As Christians, we are called to look for the intrinsic good in another person and to demonstrate appreciation for that person’s value. When you treat people like that, you raise their value, and you raise the value of the world we share.

One of the best ways to show your love for someone is to listen to that person. One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone is an attentive, listening ear, to listen with the ear of your heart. Look someone straight in the eye and say sincerely, “I value you. I value what you have to say. I value what you bring to my life and to the life of this world.” The primary test of your spiritual maturity is how you look at other people. What do you look for in them: their utility or their value? Do you see them as the world sees them or as God sees them?

Ask yourself some questions. 1.) Who is the “you” who’s been hidden by how others see you? 2.) What changes about you and your perspective when you start to see other people through God’s eyes? 3.) What keeps you from seeing people with God’s eyes? It may be distractions like pride, competition, or busyness. How can you limit those distractions? 4.) How can you show compassion to other people today, particularly in your family? How will you show compassion today?


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