Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better”.
I’ve often wondered what things would be like, indeed, what I would be like if I were to live another person’s life from birth. In this regard, C.S Lewis says,
We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man’s psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.
I’m not sure that our bodies determine our disposition, but I do wonder if we would do as well walking in another person’s shoes. This makes me think that it would be wise to forestall judgement on a person’s actions, especially when we are not very well acquainted with them. I also wonder if we prematurely judge people’s character. I have often heard the saying, “you don’t get a second chance at a first impression.” Of course, the point here is that the first impression is many times the lasting impression. We are accustomed to making snap judgments, and the fact of the matter is we have to make snap judgments. However, it seems that we can easily fail to see the deep worth in a person by coming to an opinion on the character of a person in such a hasty manner.
This brings me to another quote by C.S. Lewis:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
Life is lived at break neck speeds in so many ways, but I can’t help but think that we absolutely have to slow down when we are dealing people. After all, if people are made in God’s own image, then in some sense we will not only experience something of God in our interaction with others, but also if we snub others, then we are in some way snubbing their Maker, for He saw fit for them to have life.
Finally, we would see ourselves beckoned to love and serve those who we might find it the hardest to love and serve by one of the Church fathers St John Chrysostom who said, “If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the Church door, you will not find Him in the chalice.” His point is that we are to see Christ, and our duty to Him, in everyone we meet, even the beggar at the Church door. How could we hope to do so unless we take the time to get to know them and their unique needs. So often we miss our ministry to others by over looking them completely. Our lot as Christians is to serve our Brothers and Sisters, neighbors, and even our enemies, and we cannot do this without getting to know them. The only way we can truly hope to love God with our mind, heart, soul, and strength is to give our whole selves to His service, which includes dying to our prejudices towards others, and loving them as Christ loves them.