I continue to learn that we must avoid assessing people's response to Christ and the Gospel by the look on their faces or the appearance of their demeanor.
"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
Several weeks ago, I met a new resident in the hall of a retirement community as we arrived for a service. I introduced myself and invited her to our meeting, explaining to her what we would be doing. "I think I'll pass" she responded. Immediately I wondered if perhaps Jane (not her actual name) might not be a believer in the Lord Jesus. I caught myself, however, or more literally, the Lord caught me. I realized the trap that loomed before me that would cause me to think of Jane in terms that might be completely foreign to the truth. There could be a lot of reasons she didn't want to attend our service. I therefore determined to pray for her in the realization that I knew nothing about her other than her name. "You know Jane, Lord, and I ask You to work in her heart based upon Your perfect knowledge thereof. Moreover, if You would have us minister to her in any way, grant to us the opportunity."
Jane has been with us in our last two services. I have not had opportunity to speak to her personally for more than a moment, but she knows the old hymns we sing and frequently nods her head and even utters a quiet "Amen!" as I'm preaching. This does not confirm a genuine relationship with God through Christ, of course, but it's still a far cry from her initial "I think I'll pass." Moreover, the lesson - "judge not according to the appearance" - sank a little deeper into my heart and mind.
In his day, few would have thought that any hope existed for Saul of Tarsus to become a believer in Christ. All evidence indicated that he would live a lifetime persecuting those of such persuasion. The road to Damascus changed all that, of course, or rather, the Savior who waited for Saul on that road transformed the seemingly hopeless reprobate into the Paul who would later confess, "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). Again, no previous appearance could have predicted such spiritual cataclysm in Paul and his subsequent communication to countless hearts through the ages who know and grow in Christ through the Apostle's teaching and testimony.
As the saying goes, you cannot judge a book by its cover. Even more, we cannot always discern the heart by the look on the face, or initial reactions. Remembering such truth keeps our own hearts in the proper attitude of availability to the Lord and to people such as Jane. Why did she "pass" on that first meeting? A thousand reasons may provide the answer. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I remembered to wait until the book opened, as it were, before making an assessment about the story on its pages. "Judge not according to the appearance…"
"The Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
(I Samuel 16:7)
"We walk by faith, not by sight."
(II Corinthians 7:5)