“You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.” – Diane Arbus
I had to stop reading my book and reread that quote. “Is that really true?”, I thought. As much as I would like to disagree, our visual and image-driven culture seems to back this up. I am appalled. I am horrified. I am guilty. I tend to sum up a person based on clothing choices, physical characteristics, and tidiness – or lack there of. This is the exact opposite of the golden rule because I definitely don’t want others judging me on my appearance (even though I spend entirely too much time fussing with it).
“The general rule in nature is that living things are soft within and rigid without.” – Annie Dillard Our skin thickens with the understanding that others notice it first. And our tough exterior makes intimacy with others more difficult to attain. But we all secretly want others to see our soft middle. Our vulnerable places. The core of who we are. Even if it scares us. Knowing this about ourselves and others, we must never underestimate the power of friendfluence. As believers, how we treat others helps shape how those we interact with see Jesus.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another.” Such a simple command that I had to know more about it. William MacDonald’s Believer’s Bible Commentary defines this kindness as “an unselfish concern for the welfare of others, and a desire to be helpful even at great personal sacrifice”. Now that I’ve researched it a little, kindness doesn’t seem so simple or easy. I’m forced to admit that my interaction with others is rarely truly unselfish and almost never helpful at great personal expense.
The rest of the verse says we are to be, “…tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” The same commentary defines tenderheartedness as “a sympathetic, affectionate, and compassionate interest in others, and a willingness to bear their burden.” I confess I have some work to do. I want to be the friend who is outwardly focused enough to be genuinely compassionate and bear the burdens of others without feeling as if it is a burden. I want others to see Jesus in how I love them. A friend posted a challenge to social media recently that prompted this response. Maybe it will challenge you, too: Who in your life needs to be treated as an equal image-bearer of God?
“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14