A chance encounter gave Jo Cox a glimpse of divine love and helped her to understand that it can be reflected in the most humble face.
She’s two. Big brown eyes and soft caramel curls. A dainty little face and a happy smile. A loving heart and ready hugs. All the dads and granddads in her circle are smitten. Somehow, she brings out the best in them.
He was sitting at a bus stop on a busy corner in Melbourne. He seemed to be trying to attract my attention, but the passing din drowned out his words. I turned away. A moment later, he appeared beside me. His face was deeply lined. He had a large, red, bulbous nose and he smelled of alcohol. His hair was scruffy, his clothes dirty. But when I met his eyes, somehow they didn’t match the rest of him. They were blue and alive, and right then, they were focused on my daughter, Adelle, whom I was holding in my arms.
Adelle’s coat had slid up, leaving her back exposed to the biting winter wind. I hadn’t noticed, but this man saw it and wanted to fix the problem for her. He was concerned that she would get cold.
He gently pulled her coat down and smoothed it out, talking to her softly. He paused and reassured us that he intended no harm. Then he stroked her hair and caressed her cheek with a filthy finger. She was hesitant at first, but then she gave him a beautiful smile. He kissed her on the nose and talked to her some more.
Unwilling to interrupt his special moment, I silently asked God to bless his kind heart. He drew away and stood beside us briefly. Then the reality of our different lives took hold. He stumbled off, back to life on the streets and we went back to ours, so very different from his.
But for a brief moment, our lives met in a profound and moving experience that made me stop and think.
Jesus’ disciples were taken aback when he broke cultural and social taboos and spoke to the woman at the well (see John 4:27). She was a woman, and respectable men didn’t speak to strange women. She was a samaritan, and no self-respecting Jew would willingly engage a samaritan in conversation. To anyone but Jesus, she would have been invisible, beneath the notice of a dignified Jewish man.
If Jesus talked to her, he risked losing the respect and approval of the leaders and important, influential people of his day. yet he saw that her heart hungered for him. He ignored appearances and reached out to heal the broken places in her life. The Samaritan woman wasn’t the only person of dubious appearance to whom Jesus reached out. He healed Mary Magdalene of her demonic possession in spite of the fact that respectable people despised her as a sinner and scorned her for her lifestyle. His association with her brought him condemnation at Simon’s feast (Luke 7:39). But Jesus wasn’t in the business of people- pleasing. He wanted hearts and it didn’t matter to him where they came from.
Interestingly, Jesus didn’t practise reverse snobbery either. He didn’t despise the upper classes for being wealthy and powerful. When Nicodemus came to him by night, Jesus didn’t dismiss him as a spiritually hopeless case because of his wealth, position of privilege and power. He read beneath the outward appearance and saw a soul that was hungering for truth.
And He had lunch with Zacchaeus, a Jewish tax collector, despised by his own people. Where others saw what they perceived to be human trash, Jesus saw souls with a desire for his kingdom.Dand He responded by extending His kingdom of grace to them.
Glimpse Of God
What I saw that day was more than a scruffy, homeless man. It was more than Adelle’s ability to bring out the protective instincts in the men she meets. I saw a lonely soul with a deep need to love and care for someone. But more than that, I caught a glimpse of the heart of Jesus. Deep inside that shabby homeless man lived a little bit of Jesus’ love.
What did I see when I first looked at that man? I certainly wasn’t expecting to see the heart of Jesus! To my human eyes, he was a very unlikely place to find a little piece of God’s kingdom. He was not living a “respectable” life like me. He was dirty and intoxicated—I wouldn’t live like that! That makes me a better candidate for God’s kingdom than he, right?
Actually, God has a different way of looking at us humans. 1 Samuel 16 tells the story of the anointing of King David. God chose the next king of Israel from the family of a man named Jesse, and He sent the prophet Samuel to meet Jesse’s sons.
When Samuel met the oldest son, Eliab, he thought surely this must be God’s chosen. Eliab was tall and handsome. He had the right bearing and manner. He had all the external appearances that the Israelites would be pleased to see in a king.
But God said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (verse 7).
Instead, God led Samuel to choose David, the youngest son of that humble family from an insignificant town. To all outward appearances, David didn’t have much to offer. But God saw David’s heart. He saw that he was humble and obedient. He saw in him a willing servant and the heart of a king.
How do I really view others? Do I look beneath the surface? Do I form my opinions of them from the way they look or act or live? Maybe I need to look a bit deeper. Maybe I will find little pieces of God’s kingdom scattered all around me in the most unlikely places.
Maybe, just maybe, when I have the new heart of Jesus, I will see it in others.
Application: How do you choose your friends
◗ Are you attracted to someone’s outward appearance—the person with the beautiful home, the nice car or the good looks?
◗ Do you seek the company of those who hold positions of power or honour in your community?
◗ While there is nothing wrong with having those kinds of friends, ask yourself why you want their friendship. is it because you genuinely like them as people, or is it because they can offer you some benefit?
◗ Do you stop and think about your motives for associating with others?
◗ Do you look beneath the surface to a person’s heart?
◗ Do you lool a others the way Jesus did?