There is a classic story of a man sailing on a transatlantic ocean liner. When he went on board, he found he was sharing his cabin with another passenger. After seeing his accommodation, he went to the ship’s purser and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship’s safe for security.
He explained that he would ordinarily not make such a request, but he had been to his cabin and met the man with whom he was to be sharing a berth. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a trustworthy person. The purser accepted responsibility for the valuables and remarked, ‘It’s all right, bishop, I’ll be very glad to take care of you. The other man has already been up here and left his valuables for the same reason!’
I wonder how often we judge people without knowing them? Church is a wonderful place to meet new people from many backgrounds. I have the privilege of getting to know many people and have learnt that appearances are not a good way of judging people. It is interesting to discover the roles, responsibilities and backgrounds people come from, which you would never guess from how they look. Jesus tells us not to judge by appearances (John 7:24). Yet if we’re honest we often do.
This month in our ‘Church is’ series we are exploring Romans 14 discovering what it means to be a Gracious Community. In the chapter Paul repeats a message of not passing judgement on one another. This applies to much more than appearances. In the Church in Rome, it seems that people held different opinions about food. To eat or not to eat, that was the question. Yet Paul spends more time in teaching a right attitude to those who hold different opinions than on what should be on the menu.
There is an obligation to consider the sensitivities of others rather than pleasing ourselves. A Gracious Community follows Christ’s example of not living to please ourselves, rather it is patient and full of hope, seeking peace and building each other up. In a world that is full of mistrust we are called to see the best in others and seek the best for others. Not only is such a community a wonderful thing to be part of but it also reflects God’s grace to the world and glorifies Jesus. Let’s make this a month in which we grow in God’s grace to one another in word and deed.