“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
– Matthew 25:31-46, NIV
When we surrender our eyes to God, and our opinions of others, He can teach us and enable us to see people through His own eyes. He can give us beauty for ashes, bringing glorious new perspectives in exchange for our old and broken worldly views. Just as He sees us as His beloved creations, made in His image for divine purpose, His desire is that we see other people that same way. Even those people who infuriate us or seem to go out of their way to shame or hurt us – God actually loves them. I wonder what would happen if we began to think of those people as individuals whom God loves, who have incredible potential for His Kingdom; as people He wants to bless with abundant life, people for whom Jesus chose to suffer and die in order to offer a wonderful eternity with Him.
Choosing this attitude of love is difficult. We are all human, and as human beings we make it difficult to love each other – by being rude, disrespectful, cruel, hurtful. We are broken people and sometimes this shows in our words and actions. None of us are innocent of this. And there are times in all of our lives when we are in regular contact with individuals who seem to deliberately make it difficult for us to love them. All of us have moments when we see certain people as frustrations, burdens, difficulties – but God gently reminds us that His view is different: that He never sees any one of us that way.
This is amazing. I am not a burden or a frustration to God – He knows all my faults and all the ugly things in my life, and yet He values and treasures me. My neighbour is not a burden or a frustration to God – but is loved infinitely by Him. Even my ‘enemy’, or whoever it may be who causes me difficulty, that person is deeply loved by God. That person is lovingly, deliberately and purposefully created by Him, and God cares about every thought and feeling that that person experiences. When we surrender to God the way we see other people, He can shape our understanding and teach us how to see people this way, through lenses of His love. When God looks at us, by the blood of Jesus He looks beyond our sin and sees the incredible creation that we are. He sees the awesome potential that we have, and He knows the plans He has for us. With His help we are able to see each other the same way, if we surrender to Him the way we see other people.
Just as when we surrender to God our views of ourselves it sometimes requires a little extra effort on our part to give up our earthly views and take on His, the same can apply in the case of seeing other people how God sees them. So it’s wonderful to say that we surrender to God the way we see people – but then if we do nothing about it to let God change our views then we are not really giving Him much space to make a difference within us. “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”, James 2:16, NIV.
One thing that I have found helpful in actively allowing God to shape my views and attitudes towards other people is asking Him to teach me to pray for those people. In praying for people it can become much easier to consciously think of them the way we believe that God thinks of them: we begin to recognise them not simply as burdensome troublemakers but as fallen human beings like ourselves, as people who have families and hobbies and feelings and past experiences and hopes for the future – and we may even begin to care about them. I once heard a story of a man trying hard to love his enemy, and his method was to place a picture of the person he struggled to love on his breakfast table, so every morning he imagined that he was having breakfast with that person. After a few months of doing this, when he passed that person in the street he was able to genuinely talk to him as a friend.
It is important that we make the conscious choice to love the people that we struggle with, and to respect them regardless of the fact that human nature and the world sometimes dictate the opposite. We can surrender to God the influence that the world and human nature have over us, that innate longing for revenge and the temptation to hold onto a bitterness that will cause more internal harm to ourselves than to the other person. We can give over to God our longing for justice, knowing that He is the righteous judge – not us – and that He understands our suffering. Lord God, please enable us to give You the control over the way we see people.
It can also be tempting to put up barriers around ourselves so as not to be let down and hurt by others. This can help us to keep a ‘healthy distance’ from people who might cause us pain. I believe that at times this can be helpful but at other times it can cause greater resentment to build up, further hindering us from the attitudes of compassion and love that God wants for us. Let us surrender to God these barriers, and earnestly ask Him to teach us to see the people around us the way that He does.
Sometimes the realisation that every other person that God created has been specifically designed and crafted for a purpose can be painful. We can especially struggle with this when we have been let down by people we trusted, and when it seems irresolvable. I had a friend who I grew to know and trust, and I regularly prayed that she would know God and be blessed by Him. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, she began to pretend that she had never known me. I never found out the reasons why, and this shocked and hurt me. I tried everything I could think of to resolve the situation and bring peace, and it only became worse.
This same person went on to do other things that upset me still more, and I could not figure out the reason. I felt helpless, because it seemed that there was little that I could do about it. I prayed and prayed for peace in my own heart but that peace did not come, not until I surrendered to God the way I saw and thought about the one who had upset me. Because I was upset I had started viewing this person in my mind as one who has hurt me, rather than as a person created and loved by God – and He challenged me about this. He looks past our mistakes and our sin, whatever we may have done – He looks on us with love. He sees the purposes that He has for us, the joy He feels for us, the beauty that He has created in us! We should think of others likewise. It was difficult for me to surrender to God the way I saw this person, but when I did God taught me to pray for her in love again.
We are all missionaries…Wherever we go, we either bring people nearer to Christ, or we repel them from Christ.
– Eric Liddell
Sometimes it can be more difficult to love other Christians who have let us down than those who do not yet know God – perhaps because we have higher expectations of Christians. Unity in the Body of Christ, which is what God desires for us, requires commitment to each other and commitment to working together for the same Master. We share the same love and live for the same goal: His Kingdom. Disunity in the Body of Christ can bring about conflict, dysfunction, pain and destruction. So, just as it is important to surrender to God the ways in which we see people in our workplaces who scorn or mistreat us, or friends who have let us down, we must surrender to God our views of other Christians – even if we do not always agree with their views or their actions. Even if they have hurt us or hurt other people whom we love. Someone awesome once said, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” (John 8:7). As we surrender to God the way we see people, may He enable us to recognise that we are all a work in progress and that we all get things wrong. He chooses to look beyond our mistakes and even our very deliberate sins and look at us with love, and we should do likewise.
We all have moments in which we find ourselves feeling frustrated at people’s attitudes and behaviour, perhaps struggling to understand how one could bear to think and act the way a particular person does – or feeling annoyed that someone would continually reject God. God, somehow, instead of responding in anger, just longs for people to come back to Himself, offering them so much more than they can see. When we surrender to God the ways in which we view people, He can show us how He sees them, and this love that we experience from Him can motivate us to act towards other people in ways that please Him. When we see other people and the world through His eyes we find freedom to act on His commands with a motive of love rather than obligation, fuelled and guided by His Spirit rather than our own strength. Let us surrender, and allow Him to teach us to live the way Jesus did.
Father God, thank You that You look on each of us with love.
I’m sorry for sometimes not seeing other people the way You see them.
I surrender to You now my views of other people:
– the way I see my friends
– the way I see my family and loved ones
– the way I see my colleagues and those I work alongside
– the way I see leaders and those in authority over me
– the way I see those who inspire me: help me to encourage, not idolise.
– the way I see those under my authority or influence
– the way I see strangers and those I barely know
– the way I see the people who have hurt me and those I disagree with
Please help me to see other people from an eternal perspective.
Help me to forgive, help me to pray, help me to love.
Teach me the truth of Your purposes for the people You have created.
I surrender to You the way I relate to people as a result of the way I see them.
Please shape my understanding.
I give You my eyes and I ask that You replace them with Your own.
May I live in Your ways, with Your views rather than my own.