Deuteronomy 20:19-20 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them? However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.
Do not destroy trees - you can eat their fruit.
In the gospels, Jesus compared people to trees. "You can tell by their fruit".
In the battles of life, we start swinging our axes at people.
People can be irritating. Sometimes you'd like to swing the ax.
Every human being has the right to be valued at his very best moment.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
We all have good moments, and we all have bad moments. Dear Abby has said that 1 in 4 people are dysfunctional. (Personal note: I think I'm the one!)
Porky said this in a sermon years ago - and it really stuck with me. When he said it this morning I could have finished the second half - We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. Life would be so much sweeter if we reversed it, and did it the other way around.
Long ago, Porky said he made an agreement, he and the Lord. He felt the Lord told him, "You love 'em and I'll judge 'em." We all have a tendency to judge others. All of us - every single one.
Paul sets the standard of how we should look at one another when he says, "I no longer look at any man after the flesh." Jesus looked at a person's potential. He called Simon, "Peter" - the rock when he was anything but. Jesus saw what he could become.
Tony Campolo tells a story of a student he was speaking to who said, "Jesus never met a prostitute." The young man went on to explain that Jesus saw in everyone that he met, a soul needing salvation. I wish we could look at people that way.
There is a Calvin & Hobbes where Calving sets up a table with a sign saying "$5 for a swift kick in the butt" but he is not getting any customers. He doesn't understand why he has no customers, because "everybody needs what I'm sellin'".
Certainly we all need a swift kick in the butt from time to time - but thankfully that isn't how Jesus reacts to our shortcomings.
There is a story about a girl asking her Grandmother how she and her Grandfather have been happily married for so many years. Grandma said she decided to make a list of the 10 things that were her husbands biggest faults, and everytime he did one of them, she would overlook it. The granddaughter asked what those ten things were, and Grandma replied that she never really got around to making that list. Everytime he did something wrong, she just said to herself, "It's a good thing that was one of the ten things." Longevity in marriage was attained by overlooking the shortcomings of an imperfect spouse. The Bible tells us, it is the glory of a man to overlook an offense.
Jesus looks for good in people. In his encounter with the woman at the well, He did not respond to her the way the Pharisees would have - they would have jumped all over her. She asks Jesus for some of the living water He is speaking of, and He tells her to go and get her husband and come back, to which she replies, "I have no husband." Jesus tells her "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true." Jesus commended this woman for her truthfulness - he encourages her, and lifts her from her shame.
It's as if Jesus is saying if you can extract the precious from among the vile, then you'll be My spokesman. He asks us to look for the good in people, the qualities worth redeeming in each other.
How do I do that?
1. First, recognize my own corruption. Most people have a hard time seeing their own faults. There is a major hotel chain that just inside the locker room door is hung a large mirror with a sign above telling employees TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT YOURSELF. We need to try to see what others see when they look at us.
Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the epeck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
2. Secondly, realize your own value - see yourself as God sees you. If you had a $100 bill and crumpled it all up and got it all dirty - it would still have value. And you, even in your struggle against the flesh, and sin have intrinsic value to the Lord. God sees us in our sinfulness and says we've not lost our value.
Carl Barth, theologian, at the end of his life was asked about the most profound truth he's discovered. He said it was this - Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
The tricky part is remembering that God sees everyone around me with the same value, and loves them as well!
Jesus Loves YOU!