But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
At the gas station recently, a pickup truck pulled up next to me at the pumps. The man who emerged from the black Ford looked like a thrash-metal guitarist. He was bald and covered with tattoos. They climbed his arms and swarmed around his neck, face, and skull, which was also littered with piercings. His leather clothes were grimy. His hands were greasy and scarred. He looked like an ominous villain from some horror movie.
He looked at me and said, “Hello,” in a clear, articulate, tenor voice — and over the next five minutes we had an amazing conversation. Out of what looked like an angry face came kind words and the sort of small talk you would expect to have with a frail grandmother while waiting at the checkout line. Once we were both finished pumping gas, he said “nice to meet you” and “have a great day” before we parted. As I got back into the car I felt gratitude and shame: gratitude for having met this man who made me all the richer; and shame over the prejudices that almost prevented me from having a conversation with him.
The phrase “never judge a book by its cover” came to mind, but even more the words from 1 Samuel: “for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
So often we judge others on their appearances, but God judges the heart. May we learn to do the same.
Merciful Jesus — thank you for encountering us in surprising ways. Teach us not to judge, but to be open to your gracious, unexpected presence, in and through Jesus. Amen.
Grace and Peace