It is such a simple idea: we human beings are all created in the image of God. But it is the hardest thing we face as Christians—to let go of all our prejudices and cultural conditioning to see beyond the surface differences, to see Jesus in every person we meet. In Matthew 25, in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus states so clearly that helping another person is helping Him. But, of course, Jesus himself was a model of honoring the people He met.
Can we see Jesus in every person we meet, no matter their color, their income level, their education, their difficulties in life, their prejudices, their flaws, their sins? In essence Jesus is saying that we are to treat every person like God treats us—showering His love and blessings on all of us whether we know it or not, just as God sends His rain to fall and His sun to shine equally on everyone, evil and good. So how do we get beyond our judgments, our likes and dislikes to be able to see the real person before us?
This is the major work that God does in us, if and when we are willing to leave behind all the natural human tendencies to judge, to categorize and to protect ourselves from someone who is different than us. Our willingness to surrender all our judgments about other people is essential; we need lay them on the altar asking God to heal all that stands between us and any other person.
Since the pandemic began, I have been researching slavery in the world and in the Bible. And what I have concluded is this: that we are enslaved by our prejudices, our judgments, by our culture and by our own self-image. And that the judgments and prejudices we hold against another human being also enslaves them. Any thought that God did not endow us with enslaves us and others. And that we are not free until we adopt the grace and blessings that God has as He looks at us imperfect people, at all His people. And that is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus. As God highlights these sins of ours, we release all our very human foibles in favor of thinking and being and doing like God does, taking on the mind of Christ.
We have to start with ourselves. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as [we love] ourselves. That is the 2nd Great Commandment. I maintain that we can’t love another until we can love ourselves. In fact, what is clear to me is that we do “love” others just as we love ourselves, unfortunately. Until we can see the truth of who we are and who we were created to be, we are only judging ourselves. For me, it took a conscious decision: If God can love me, then, surely, I can love myself, warts and all. How can we love another, if we can’t turn the eyes of love on ourselves, on everything that has happened to us. I’ve written about this before, but the most toxic thing in my life from early on was a hell-fire-and-damnation church that my family belonged to from the time I was 1 ½ years old to 13 years old. Today I see that church as being so formative in the work I do now: being a spiritual director, supervising spiritual directors, blogging and being an author. Everything that interests me is about how we live this life as a follower of Jesus. I sincerely doubt that I would have been led to this profession at all if I had not had to deal with that toxic religious upbringing and heal from its teachings. And now, looking back, I can see God’s footprints alongside mine as I walked this long road.
If loving ourselves is the first step, then opening our hearts to all other people, starting small and eventually echoing the love in Christ’s mind, is the second step. God’s love then can flow through us and out to other people. It’s not a question of what do we say or how we are to say it, the Holy Spirit takes care of the content of our message to others and how they receive it, once we are really willing to love them, too, just as they are.
Postscript: I am writing a book about following Jesus, and I would love to have stories from you readers about the things/thoughts/people/whatever has enslaved you and how you were freed from that slavery. Send them to my email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or message me on FB. I will only use your initials in the book, not your name. Thanking all who desire to contribute, Pat
Questions to ponder over the week: What judgments or prejudices about others do you hold in your mind and heart? From what judgments have you been freed of? How are different with other people now? Are you willing to let God heal all of them?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are free of all judgments and prejudices about others. May we be free of the guilt and shame of judging others. May we be free to become the person God created us to be.
If you’d like read this blog post in full, go to patsaidadams.com/by-the-waters-blog/.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 6.22.20s is entitled, “The Life That Awaits You.”
 Genesis 1:27
 Matthew 5:45
 1 Corinthians 2:16 “But we have the mind of Christ.”
 Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:27