When you look at people, what do you think about? As you walk along the street; when you talk to your work mates; when you meet new people—how do you look at them? What do you think about them?
Do any of these thoughts cross your mind?
Gee, she’s good looking.
Boy, he talks a lot.
They must be rich if they drive a BMW.
I’ll bet she’ll get a promotion before me.
He’s a doctor, he must be smart.
I wish I had a beautiful house like they do.
Or maybe you’re too busy wondering what they think of you to even think about them at all.
We spend a lot of time drawing conclusions about people from looking at them and their possessions. Often, we don’t go any deeper than that.
The apostle Paul was different. Paul didn’t just look at people with human eyes. He didn’t just look at their appearance. Paul realised there was a greater reality beyond what we see.
What made Paul look at people differently? He tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” It’s the love of Christ; it’s Christ’s extraordinary sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus looked at a sinful humanity. And he didn’t see how fat or skinny we are. He didn’t just see our possessions. Jesus saw humanity’s desperate need before God. And out of his incredible love he was willing to give up everything to put it right. He was even willing to die in agony on a cross to put it right. Christ showed amazing love to humanity. And Paul found that love compelling—so compelling that it resulted in two changes.
Firstly, it changed the way he looked at himself. In Christ, Paul understood that he was something completely new. He was no longer Saul the Pharisee. Now he was a man whose sins were forgiven, a man reconciled to God. A man with a message. An ambassador of Christ (2 Cor 5:17-20).
Secondly, Christ’s love changed the way Paul looked at other people. As Christ’s ambassador, he saw people differently. Paul knew that people need to be persuaded to become friends with God through Jesus. More than persuaded, they need to be implored. Begged (2 Cor 5:20)
The other day in a department store, I saw a good example of imploring. A little girl wanted a pair of Barbie socks. So she said “Mum can I please have these socks?” Her Mum said “No, darling”. “Pleease Mum, can you buy them for me?” “No, darling. You don’t need more socks.” “Oh, PLEEEEASE Mum. I love them so much.” “No.” “Please Mummy. Please don’t make me beg.” “Sweetie, that’s enough.” “Oh, please Mummy. I’m begging you, I’m begging you, pleeaase.”
The little girl didn’t really need the Barbie socks. But Paul knew that people desperately need Jesus. So he implored people. He begged them to be reconciled to God.
As Christians, Christ’s love for the world should mean that we look at ourselves with different eyes. If you’re a Christian you’re not just Mark, Jane, Maria or Jim any more. You’re not just a secretary, a systems analyst, a student, a mum, a wife, a husband or whatever else you do. In Christ you’re a new creation. You’re Christ’s ambassador.
As ambassadors for Christ, his love should compel us to change the way we look at others, too. We can’t look at people in a superficial way anymore. People are not only what they appear to be. They’re not just their looks. They’re not just their clothes. They’re not just their jobs. People are sinners facing God’s judgment. And they need Jesus. Christ’s love should compel us to get serious about persuading people. Urging people. Imploring people to be reconciled to God.
I know I don’t implore people anywhere near as much as I should. Most of the time, I’m too busy looking at their outward appearance to even think about their spiritual need. Are you a bit like me?
As the new year gets going, let’s practise looking at people differently. Let’s train our minds to start looking deeper. Next time, you are at the supermarket, train your mind to think differently about the woman at the check out. She’s not just another person who serves you. Jesus loves her. She needs to be persuaded to become friends with God. Next time you’re standing in the photocopying queue, think about where the person in front of you stands with God. Actively look for opportunities to persuade him to change the way he looks at Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to see people in a superficial way. Implore them to be reconciled to God. Be a true and faithful ambassador for Christ. Let Christ’s love compel you to change the way you look.