Dear “Real” Christian Man,
I was driving today down a stretch of road near my home where the speed limit has recently been lowered, and many motorists are not keen on the new, lower speed. In fact, the speed drops twice in less than a mile, from 50 to 45, and then to 35, and the road on this stretch is single lane, so it is not uncommon to be tailgated if one is driving at the posted speed, as I was today. I stayed calm, but because the driver behind me was in a very well marked commercial truck, I thought I might call the company to lodge a complaint, or maybe even make a social media post to call out the tailgater. Much like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, I can sometimes have an overdeveloped sense of vengeance, and one day it indeed might get me into trouble. Fortunately, soon after the drop down to 35, the road widens out into two lanes, and my anxious neighbor to the rear was able to get into the passing lane and accelerate past me. Too bad for him the traffic signal ahead turned red, and he was forced to stop anyway. I rolled up to the light, somewhat smugly as I thought to myself “well, he didn’t get that far, now did he!” As my car came up alongside the truck, the driver tooted his horn. I looked over and he and his passenger were motioning me to roll down my window. My mind immediately assumed that they were going to offer some critique of my driving, and as my window lowered, I prepared myself for a good, old-fashioned road-rage throw down. I glared my best glare at them and waited for one of them to fire the first shot. The driver leaned forward directly into the path of my icy stare, and shouted out “Hey, your passenger-side brake-light is out; might want to get that fixed before you get pulled over”. Well, now, them didn’t sound like fighting’ words at all. Feeling a bit stupid, I thanked them, the light turned green, and off I went to the auto parts store to buy a bulb.
What is it about us humans that causes us to sometimes see the worst in people, causes use to focus on the bad in people instead of the good? My encounter left me asking that question, and I thought that maybe God was using this incident to teach me a lesson. I reasoned that it was not beneficial to look for the bad in people, to judge them before I had all the facts, so moving forward I would try to adjust my way of thinking and only seek what was good in people. Lesson learned, right? Certainly sounds like a noble idea, doesn’t it? But something just didn’t sit right with me, and then it clicked! Trying to see either the good or bad in people requires me to judge another’s motives, character or actions. If I see their good, then I am making a judgement about what is good, and the same holds true for bad. But I am not called to judge, only to love. Judgement is God’s job, not mine. So I asked God for wisdom on this matter, and He gave me this impression. Look not for the good or bad in people, but look instead for the need in people, because meeting the needs of others is what I have called you to do.
His word tells us to love others (John 13:34), to take care of widows and orphans (James 1:27), to put the needs of others before our own (Philippians 2:3-4) and even to love those who we consider our enemies (Matthew 5:43-47). Not always an easy choice, and often not the choice that first pops into our heads, but it is clearly what we are called to do, however imperfectly we execute on these mandates. Fortunately our good Father forgives us our shortcomings, and loves us despite our foibles, which demonstrates that He himself is doing exactly what He is asking us to do.