I've been thinking a lot about value. What the world values is very different from what God values in terms of money, material possessions, the measure of success, and even in terms of humanity. As a Christ follower, I believe it's important that what I value lines up with what God values. Another words, I need to see it all through His eyes and have His understanding of things. That's why reading my Bible and spending time with Him are so important. It's only through the lens of His Word that I can get an accurate view and understanding of things. It's only by spending time with Him, really knowing Him, that what I value can become the same as what He values.
There are many ways...too many ways, that what God values and what the world values are different. The differences I've been considering lately have to do with humanity. God's used a special little boy to encourage me to take a broader look at the differences. I first met the boy at our church food pantry. He was hiding behind his grandma when I asked if they wanted prayer. The grandmother responded to my question with "Yes! I need prayer because he is evil!". I had never heard a parent or grandparent say something like that in front of a child before, and it really threw me. So much so, that I couldn't pray with her. So, I directed her to one of the other ladies that were waiting to pray with someone. In the mean time, the boy had taken off running in the church gym and I went after him.
He was surprised to see me walking toward him and he stopped in his tracks. I told him my name and said, "Do you know God loves you very much?" He didn't speak, just shook his head yes. I wanted to continue the conversation, to somehow let him know that he wasn't hopeless. I asked him another question, "Do you know that God has wonderful plans for your future, because He loves you so much?" Again, he shook his head yes. Shortly after that he and I walked over to where his grandma was standing and they left. I have had the privilege of spending time with him four times since, and every time I see him I tell him that God loves him and has great plans for his life. Slowly, God is softening his grandma's heart and she no longer calls him evil. Perhaps she said that initially out of her own frustration and hopelessness. The boy is in fact, autistic. That doesn't matter to God... to the world it may matter. The world may see those with autism and feel hopeless because it only focuses on the challenges of being autistic. God values the person regardless. He still sees someone He created in His image, someone He loves. He still has great plans for their future. The world forgets the God of the impossible. The God who made this little boy has already made him incredible. There are things that only this little guy can contribute to this great big world of ours....and those contributions will surely make it a better place. This little boy is valuable. He is a treasure. It's only when we focus solely on his challenges that what we value becomes more like what the world values and we fail to see his value through God's eyes.
Sometimes we don't realize that what we value is the same thing that the world values. Sometimes we think we are standing up for what God values when in fact, what we are taking a stand on doesn't even line up with His Word. Christians tend to do this a lot out of fear. I saw a perfect example of this play out on social media this week. A brother in Christ stated that he felt the U. S. should close its borders to Muslim immigrants. This statement was made after the Chattanooga shootings. Although not all of the details are known yet, the shooter was a Muslim. This brother in Christ believes that closing our borders to Muslim immigrants will prevent these things from happening. He sees Islam as the root of the problem. He likened a decision to close the borders, to the U.S. closing its borders during World War 2 to Japanese immigrants. He stated that every Muslim that comes to the U.S. has the potential to be radicalized and they will kill to honor their religion. It strikes me that closing U.S. borders to Muslims would be like closing Pennsylvania's borders to New Yorkers. Sure, I would be less likely to get killed in a car accident as I head to Walmart on a weekend, but I would also miss out on getting to know some really great people. Several of my friends are from New York, and my life is only richer for having known them! We miss out on so much when we only value those who look like us and think like us. We miss out on so much when we make sweeping generalizations and lump a whole people group into one category, such as lumping Muslims and terrorists all together or crazy drivers and New Yorkers all together! Why do we do it? Perhaps it's easier to do this than to ask God for His eyes to see the value in others. After all, seeing the value in others requires taking the time to get to know them, and caring enough to point them to Christ.
I've struggled all week long to wrap my mind around this way of thinking. I see this man's points. I have also heard similar ideas from non Christians. The questions keep coming to me: Does God value the Muslim immigrants? If we serve a radical God, radical enough to send His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, then why should we be concerned or afraid of radical Muslims? Can't our God save them too? Is He not loving enough, powerful enough...to change their hearts? Are they not human beings created in God's image just like we are? If so, then why not invite them in and choose to be an instrument God can use in the American church to lead them to Jesus Christ, the radical Savior? Then they truly will be radicalized!
As I've thought about these two very different set of circumstances this week, I've come to realize that we devalue what we don't understand. We do it out of fear and sometimes out of laziness. It's easier to dismiss those who are different from us than to get to know them, pray for them, love them, help them, and value them. It's easier to dismiss Muslim immigrants than it is for the body of Christ in America as a whole, to get it's act together, get it's spiritual armor on, and invest in the lives of Muslim immigrants with the end goal of leading them to Christ who already loves them, values them, and wants them for His own. We are too quick to forget that Christ valued us. He valued us...sinful us...so much that He went to the cross. If we could just remember what He has saved us from, how completely He's loved us since, then we could more easily view others who are different from us through His eyes. When that happens we will come to see as valuable what He sees as valuable, and suddenly everyone we come across is that little boy in the church gym and we can't wait to tell them over and over again that God loves them and has great plans for them...and we'll continue to declare it until it sinks down into the depths of their being and they too can see their value in God's eyes.