Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inside Out or Outside In?

“But the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16: 7

We have all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” and yet this is what we do so often with the people we come into contact with each day. We see someone and make an immediate judgment about them, based on the clothes they are wearing, the style of their hair, the straightness of their teeth or the color of their skin. We decide whether they are good or bad, or someone we can trust or should be afraid of based on the number of tattoos and piercings they have. And we even make confident assumptions about their spiritual life based on brief observations of their conduct. While the reality is that sometimes these judgments prove true, often times we are wrong. Why do we do this?

Well, it’s not like this is a new trend or fad. All you have to do is read the Old Testament to realize that people have been doing this for thousands of years—even when Adam saw Eve for the first time he knew she was pleasing and they hadn’t even spoken to one another. But so often this judgment of others based on outward appearances or actions has a way of keeping us separate from others. It is a defense mechanism used to keep others at arms’ length. It allows us to keep moving along with our busy lives and not get too involved. It allows us to cast someone aside instead of taking the time to get to know them. It limits love.

And yet on the flip side, so many people try so desperately to fit in and have the “right look”. People have made their bodies into a god, going beyond just trying to be healthy, to worshipping the way they look. Driven so often by a desire to be accepted and out of a fear of rejection we begin to look in the mirror each day and judge ourselves based on what we see.  But is this what God sees?

Does God simple look at us and see our sin, or our physical imperfections. NO. He looks into our hearts. He sees us and knows us as we really are. As Pope John Paul II once said, “You are not the sum of your sins, but the sum of God’s love for you.” Does this mean that He dismisses our sins? No, but He can also see into the depth of our hearts and see our love, our weaknesses, our desires, our hurts and all our broken pieces and all the mitigating factors that go into our thoughts, words and deeds—and He judges from the inside, not the outside. And despite all this He loves us. The real question is whether we will love ourselves the way He loves us. And flowing from this love will be the grace to redeem us and all of our hurt and broken pieces and bring us to a place where our desires, thoughts, words and actions seek to honor and obey Him who loves us even when we don’t. Then we will be able to see others as God sees them, too.

Dear Jesus, allow me to love myself and others as You do, from the inside out. Please give me the grace to live in Your love and to conform my desires, thoughts, words and deeds to Your plan for me. Amen.

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