We tend to quickly place people that we see, meet and know into one or more categories that instantly describe who they are, friend or foe, and how they are expected to behave. It is said that one’s opinion, of a person just met, takes only about 10 seconds to start assigning the person into one or more categories how one will then judge the behavior and expected future interactions from this person.
Categories, that we may choose to describe a person, would include these or one of many others:
- Gender: Male or Female
- Age: Young, Old, Millennial, Baby Boomer, Gen X etc.
- Nationality/Ethnic: US, English, Polish, Italian, Chinese, Iranian, Jewish etc.
- Skin/hair color: White, Black, Brunette, Blonde, Bald(ing) etc.
- Political affiliations: Democrat, Republican, Pro Life, Pro Choice, LGBT, ISIS etc.
- Religious affiliations: Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Agnostic, Atheist, None etc.
- Friend or foe: Family member, Neighbor, Terrorist, Convict, Friend, Benefactor etc.
- Personal/physical health: Healthy, ADHD, Blind, Terminally ill, Autistic etc.
The next question then is, “What category would you first put a person in when meeting them?” That first category would be the dominant description for the person’s interaction expectations. One would probably say that it depends. Depends on how that first 10 seconds goes.
Now, when taking Jesus’ commands to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12) into account, how would Jesus want us to first categorize an individual? That is correct, we must start, and end with, “Child of God”. Anything other than that is judging a person incorrectly by assuming the person will act and be similar to those stereotyped as being in any of these other categories assigned. Not only will our assumption about this person be wrong, it then gives this person no latitude to be different than me/us, have a different world view, have different goals. Using these “worldly” personal trait categories, people quickly become classified as “one of them” or “one of us”.
Our worldly animal instincts tell us to stereotype judge a person for a number of reasons: Safety/Protection (is this person dangerous to me, try to harm me), Think in a like manner to me (will they disagree with my views and try to convert me to their way of thinking), Can I trust this person?
Jesus; however, commands that we use our Spiritual gifts to assess every person, first and foremost, as a “Child of God”. It would be so nice, though, if everyone acted and had the same goals as me, right? God created each one of us as different as different can be, right down to our fingerprints. He did that for a reason. Why then do we try to fit all the people of this world into the “one of us” category?
That is not to say that we should not try to correct any wrongs we see. In fact, Jesus commands us to do so. We are commanded to discuss with an individual any behavior observed that is contrary to Jesus’ teachings – on what a Child of God is to be and do.
Each one of us has his/her own note to play in Jesus’ world salvation symphony. The symphony would be pretty boring and bland if everyone played the same note. We must love every person as they are, a Child of God. We must also celebrate all the different gifts and talents God has given each one of us, that together, will make this a wonderful and Godly world. Viva La Difference! Amen.