None of us likes to wait. We want things in a hurry. More than a microwave world, we navigate a micro-second culture. We expect fast results. A Google® search across hundreds of thousands of documents takes microseconds. When we need a solution to a problem, we expect the fix to be a quick one.
This "get-it-quick" mentality permeates our approach to relationships. With so much going on in our busy lives, we feel we must make quick judgments about people. We weigh their possible demands upon our time compared to the potential benefits we might receive from the relationship. We have several different ways we view people that we use as a filter to help us make these judgments. As crass as all of this sounds, we unconsciously do this every single day of our lives. But, this is not the way relationships happen. We grow into a valuable relationship rather than just tacking another person onto our busy lives.
However, if we are ever going to truly view people as Jesus did, we will come to share the passion Jesus has for each person. We see this passion for people demonstrated throughout the Lord's ministry. One of the places where it was most clearly demonstrated is in John's account of Jesus healing a man born blind (John 9:1-38). In the ongoing interactions of Jesus and the people around him, the Lord demonstrated how we must view people if we are to make a redemptive difference in their lives.
How did Jesus view each person? The Savior saw each person as someone in whom "the works of God might be displayed" (John 9:4).
Too often as human beings, we tend to view people in ways that demean their value to God and reveal the diminished value we place upon them. In Jesus' interaction with the man born blind, all the other people around the man viewed him as less than someone special to God — in fact, most didn't truly value him as a person at all. They become the stark reminder of our own filters for dismissing and not investing in others.
The disciples viewed the man born blind as little more than a religious question:
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1).
When we view someone as a religious question, we never have to address their spiritual needs or involve ourselves in their spiritual care. They are a question to be answered rather than a person to be loved. The discussion sounds religious, but we don't have to "waste our time" or get overly involved with the person as a person.
The crowd who saw the man born blind regularly viewed him as little more than a label:
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" (John 9:8 ESV).
When we view someone as a label, we never have to get to know them. You reduce them to a category, a group, and deal with them out of our prejudice toward that group.
The Pharisees saw the man born blind as a problem to be solved. Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath. They claimed that such healing was a violation of their Sabbath law. And the sign Jesus performed was undeniable. The results of the sign were also a blessing to the man. In the process, Jesus had gained even greater notoriety as a healer from God through the events surrounding the sign. This result, of course, was problematic for the Pharisees who opposed Jesus and considered him a sinner:
Some of the Pharisees said, "This man [Jesus] is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner perform such signs?" So they [the people] were divided (John 9:16).
The man, along with his needs and his human dignity, was completely lost in the discussion of the problem. The only use that the crowd or the Pharisees had for the man was to answer their questions as they tried to solve the problem. But as he answered their questions clearly and honestly, they grew angry with him. When we view a person as a problem to be solved, then we don't have to involve ourselves with the person. Our only focus is solving the problem. We can feel good about ourselves as problem-solvers, and we never have to value the people caught in the middle of the problem.
The saddest of all views of the man born blind came from the man's parents. They were brought into the situation by the Pharisees to determine if the man was actually born blind and to see if Jesus was the one who healed him. They were afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue and losing their relationships in society. So, rather than defending their son against the religious bullies, they evaded their relationship with their son to protect themselves. They chose to view their very own son as little more than a biological product:
"We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him" (John 9:20-24).
Aren't we tempted to view people in these same categories today?
Notice how the political discussions about people today in our world's election cycles tends to view people — votes to get, problems to solve, groups offended, people marginalized, and refugees forgotten so that even among those sympathetic to the problems of people the individual person is often forgotten. Notice how the news reporting of disasters views people — headlines, victims, and story fodder. Notice how we tend to use "us" and "them" language when talking about people different from us. Notice how easily we slip into characterizations of people based on labels, categories, problems to be solved, and by their impact on us and our safety and our finances.
We must remember what these four false views — these anti-redemptive and anti-Jesus views — are, and we must avoid them. Are we viewing people as
- A religious question?
- A label?
- A problem to be solved?
- Or a biological product?
If we are going to see people as Jesus does, we must realize that each person needs to experience the power, love, and grace that come from a connection with the loving Father. Each needs the work of God done in his or her life!
The Lord indicates this necessary perspective:
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:3-5).
Each person we meet is someone in whom the work of God needs to be displayed. We must want to connect each person with Jesus. They need the work of God to happen in their lives. They need to believe in the one the Father sent (John 6:28-29)!
Unfortunately, we can view people through a filter that suggests they would never want to know him. We profile them out of a relationship with Jesus because we think they don't fit. We use one of the four false views of people. We view them as a religious question, a label, a problem to be solved, or a biological product.
When we look through the Bible, we find all sorts of people no one would ever expect to honor God. However, these are the very people God used to change history, bring salvation, and restore hope. We cannot know what's in the heart of people. We don't know the plans God ultimately has for them. But, we do know this: each person needs the works of God to be displayed in his or her life. Each needs to be connected with Jesus. Each needs to come to believe in him and come to know his power, love, and grace.