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
Jesus looked at him and loved him.
Yesterday I nearly skipped breakfast and needed to grab a banana as I headed to work. I looked on the counter and the only option I had was one that appeared, shall we say, “undesirable.” The peel had dark spots, the stem was dried up. This one had long ago bid farewell to dreams of starring in a Chiquita commercial. The glory days were past, and brown was the color of the moment. My first thought was to send that guy right to the compost bucket. But I decided to check inside just to make sure.
Upon a second look, I saw that the inside of the banana was beautiful! Interestingly, the outside peel had not been a sign of how ruined the inside was… and I nearly missed breakfast because of it. So I did what millions of millennial hipsters do every day: I took pictures of my food. Confession: I am neither a millennial nor a hipster. But I did sense a Jesus metaphor coming on.
It’s a simple, overplayed idea, right? We’ve got these famous sayings...
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Looks can be deceiving.
Don’t toss a banana because of its peel... seems like it is also destined for greatness.
At first glance, this message seems almost juvenile in how obvious it is. Yet theory and practice are not the same. The truth is that I’ve meet very few people who truly have the capability to go beyond exteriors and offer inherent value to a person. We need Jesus to teach us how to do that over and over again.
It’s tempting to use first impressions of someone in order to pass judgment.
It’s tempting to use limited knowledge about someone's past to make assumptions about their future.
It’s tempting to take someone’s ugly moments and make it the totality of their character.
We have this human inclination toward competition over cooperation. And we also have a need for control that tempts us to deal always in absolutes, rather than layers. But Jesus teaches us a better way. He teaches us compassion and engagement. He teaches us to make gracious assumptions. And he releases us from the responsibility of passing judgement. This example does not just transform how we see others. It’s changes how we see ourselves.
So how do we achieve that heart of God for others?
We have to receive the heart of God for us.
Frequently, our inability to practice value within others is rooted in our personal inability to be loved as we are. Our experience of God’s grace has been rather anemic, so we communicate our disease to others.
Listen friends. Stop singing about God’s grace being enough. Start actually letting God’s grace be enough. Start welcoming God’s love in fullness. Start seeing yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made, worthy of love and redemption. Start seeing yourself as created in God’s image. You are beautiful despite your failures. You are worth dying for.
And the only way to come to grips with that is to sit with Jesus until the love sinks in.
When you are tempted to assume rottenness in yourself or another this week, may you be reminded that God sees beneath the hurts and failures to the core of who a person is-- and loves them. Yes, God’s image in us can become corroded and marred. Sometimes we lift back the peel and what we see is mushy fruit. But here’s where the metaphor reaches its limit. Not only does God look at the heart, but even the heart reveals pride, greed, and ugliness… God loves us anyway and is powerful to transform. So even the rotten fruit in our world isn’t beyond restoration in God’s kingdom. Today is a good day to start living like that’s true.
Jesus, help me receive your grace in a way that really changes things.
**If you want to take the metaphor farther, apparently you can shop for ugly produce here.