Over the next couple of months I’ve joined up with a great group of church leaders and writers to explore some of the practical applications for individuals and churches of living Inside Out. I believe you’ll be blessed and challenged by their thoughts, so please make an effort to check back to this blog throughout July and August to join this Summer Blog Tour. Read other posts in this series HERE.
There is also a giveaway at the end of the Tour and the winner will receive a copy of the book and workbook, Church Inside Out by Timothy Archer. Leave a comment below and then click HERE to enter the giveaway.
Seeing Inside Out
by Peter Horne
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
Perhaps you’ve heard that verse before.
We use it to tell other people to stop judging us. “God knows what’s in my heart.”
We use it to judge other people, because although they look good God, and I, know what’s really going on in their hearts.
Sometimes we use it to include people who have a lot of tattoos, or whose clothes are shabby… “the Lord looks at the heart.”
Sometimes we use it to excuse our laziness and lack of action. “I know I could have cooked a meal for that person who just had surgery. I’d have liked to but just didn’t get around to it. Well, God knows my heart.”
In reality, we all judge on appearance more than we’re usually willing to admit. Although we know and quote 1 Samuel 16:7 we often live in opposition to this principle.
We make all sorts of judgments about people based on appearance:
- Football fans – we like people more or less depending which team they support;
- Professional attire – we presume people are more educated and capable the more formal their dress;
- Skin tone – we all tend to more quickly trust others who look more like us;
- Hemlines – women in general are more regularly judged by appearance and people associate values with clothing choices us as the length of a woman’s dress.
Because we know people make judgements based on appearances we then begin to accept them and play along. We may even try to use those judgements to our own advantage.
It’s not a coincidence that many politicians wear red-coloured ties with light shirts and darker suits.
‘Red is the power tie,’ said Mark Woodman, a trend analyst who studies colour in Laurel, Maryland, in the US. ‘There’s something about red that always comes back to strength and passion.’ [quoted from HERE]
When it comes to playing along there’s not much we can do about our skins. We all ‘play along’ to some degree in regards to clothing, but accepting skin colour as a reasonable basis to make judgements about a person is dangerous. Viewing a presidential candidate as passionate because he wears a red tie pales in significance compared to initially regarding someone with dark skin as dangerous or assuming that someone with white skin would ‘fit in’ better to our office atmosphere.
It’s difficult to see people inside-out when society, and perhaps our human nature, trains us to see others outside-in. Notice in the opening verse that God states that it’s completely natural for even the great prophet Samuel to judge people by appearance. But as we grow in spiritual maturity we must desire to see others as God sees them.
The apostle Paul expresses the same thought this way:
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… 2 Corinthians 5:16-18
Reconciliation has many different applications. Primarily all humanity needs reconciliation with God. But given the history of the United States no one can claim to be reconciled with God while neglecting racial reconciliation. Given the tragedies we’ve witnessed around this country recently, the church can’t preach forgiveness while standing on the sidelines pointing fingers at violence and injustice in others.
Christians should be leading the way in practicing reconciliation because we regard no one from a worldly point of view.
- Can we continue to describe churches as black and white if we no longer regard others from a worldly point of view?
- Can we tolerate education systems with disparate graduation rates running along racial lines?
- Can we remain silent while African-Americans fill our jails at a disproportionate rate?
Do we really believe that in Christ the old has gone and the new is here? Or is it too easy for us to rationalise the points above? Do we really see people differently because of Christ, or have we just memorised a couple of feel-good Bible verses?
Steps to See Others Inside-Out
- Remind Yourself Frequently. When you find yourself saying, “Typical, black drivers are always cutting me off.” or “Well, that’s no surprise, Indians are taking all our jobs.” Find ways to talk back to yourself. Remind yourself that each person is an individual with struggles and bad habits just like yours. Remind yourself that God loves them too.
- Understand that skin color is more than skin deep. People of different ethnicities experience the world in different ways. When we intentionally try to ignore skin color we ignore important aspects of that person’s life. Seeing people inside-out means acknowledging that a black male will most likely have different thoughts about dealing with the police than will a white female. The outside influences the inside. [I’ve written further on this topic HERE.]
- Ask Questions. Spend time with people from other ethnicities and cultures. Don’t tell them what the people in the news are doing wrong. Listen to their experience with the issues that interest you. Don’t argue! A simple ice breaker might go something like this, “What’s something about your experience living in the US that you think would surprise me, or I wouldn’t experience?”
- Make New Friends. If you live in a racially diverse community, and all your friends come from the same race as you, it’s time to develop some new friendships. It’s hard to demonstrate that you’re an agent of reconciliation if your friends are all one color.
- Be Color Brave. Encourage your church to address issues of racial reconciliation. If you live in an area with single race churches, then speak up for unity services and other forms of cooperation. Don’t pretend that race-based churches provide an acceptable status quo. Push for your church to embody the truth that “the Lord looks at the heart.” [Check out a great TED talk and other thoughts HERE.]
It has taken the United States centuries to reach this point in race relations. While prejudice may never disappear from our society, Christians have an opportunity and challenge to demonstrate a better way. We can show the world what a difference it makes to move through life Seeing Inside-Out.
Peter Horne moved to the United States from Australia in 1999 to pursue training for ministry. Having filled the roles of children’s minister, youth minister, and college minister in various locations around the US and Australia, he now happily serves as the minister for the Lawson Rd Church of Christ in Rochester NY. You can find more of his writing on his blog.
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