by Tim Hall
Is there a way we can see a person’s soul?
In reading reviews others had written about a product I was thinking of buying, I was abruptly stopped by one review. In discussing what he did and didn’t like about the product, the man mentioned that he uses a wheelchair. For some reason that surprised me. Why?
There are many differences that separate us all. Some are visual: skin color, clothing, physical shape, hair color, etc. When we see these, we immediately draw inferences about others, though they can be quite misleading. Other differences are detected by voice alone: the language spoken, the tone of voice, dialect and vocabulary. Again, hearing these cues – even if we don’t see the person – leads to inferences (read, stereotypes).
The written word strips away most of the differences that separate us. Until they reveal such, we don’t know anything about the writer’s race, age, gender, personal tastes or values. In a sense, we see the sameness of our souls when we read one another’s writings. Words may be the closest we can come to a common denominator between people.
There was one who excelled at looking beyond the differences between people. Jesus of Nazareth was not intimidated by the outward marks that tend to drive people apart. He reached out to women (John 4:7-26), people with “unclean” diseases (Luke 5:12-14), those whose reputation had been tarnished (Luke 5:27-32), or the rich and powerful (John 3:1-21). Traits and cues that cause us to think twice about reaching out to others seemed not to have that effect at all on Jesus.
Jesus’ way of viewing others should become our way. When asked to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus went further and also noted the second greatest: “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:39, NKJV). At the heart of that command is this principle: People are really not as different from one another as we often think. When we look beyond the externals we see that we’re all made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
Is it coincidental that Jesus was referred to by John as “the word” (John 1:1-14)? Instead of envisioning him as a Jew, a humble carpenter, an associate of sinners or of the gender of a man, we see him at his ultimate when we regard Jesus as the word. He is the finest communication of what God wants each of us to become.
By focusing on the words, we gain access to a window into the souls of others. By looking to “the word” (Jesus), we have a window into the greatness of what souls can become.
by Tim Hall