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homeless person‘And if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?’ James 2:3-4

It was Friday morning. I was a bit late to my coffee/bible study group in a coffee shop in the small Midwestern town I lived in. There were three groups that visited this place on Friday mornings. All of us were believers. All of us were ‘nice, clean, Midwestern adults’. Different churches, different backgrounds, but one God and Lord of all.

This particular morning I was standing behind a stranger in our midst while waiting for my coffee. The person had a ring on every finger, painted nails, eye shadow that was much too dark, tattoos extending from his wrists to above the sleeve of his short-sleeved shirt and a belt that was nothing more than a chain. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what gender the person was.

Then I heard his story. His mother was dying of cancer as was his father. He had recently tried to commit suicide and showed us the scars from the 29 stitches that saved his life. As a result of his suicide attempt and some other circumstances he had called out to God and was saved through the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Now, his mission is to reach out to other kids who struggle with broken families, drugs and the temptation to commit suicide. Health issues won’t allow him to keep jobs very long so life itself is a struggle. He told us about the impact he has with kids and then commented that too often adults look down on him. After all, he said with a smile “Would you let your daughter date someone who looks like me?

His words hit home. It’s so easy for us to judge other people by their clothing, the tattoos, the make-up and a wide variety of other externals. But Jesus isn’t concerned about the exterior as much as he is the heart. I’m guessing that Jesus is far more impressed (if I can use that word) with people like my new friend than he is many of us who sit comfortably  and smugly in our churches impressed by the blessings we have given ourselves.

As we gathered around this young man to lay hands on him and pray for him I was reminded of how important it is to keep a clear mind and open heart to those around us. Unless we know their story we have no idea what many people around us are going through. What is your first thought when you see the homeless person holding a sign on the edge of a busy street corner? What is your attitude as you walk past a group of oddly dressed young people at the mall? If a ‘street person’ came into your worship service Sunday morning would he feel as welcome as a well-dressed professional?

It’s time to break the chains of our judgmental attitudes so that we can see others in the same way that Jesus did. That’s grace!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus I’m humbled when I remember that you spent most of your time with people I tend to avoid or be uncomfortable around. Forgive me for my passive judgmentality. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to see others as Jesus did. Amen.

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