I was greeted fresh out of bed today with an email that an internet buddy of mine dropped dead from a heart attack early this morning. John and I weren't especially close, but we certainly shared a lot of experiences as moderators on a racing bulletin board. I met him only once in person back in the garage area of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where we talked for a few minutes, mostly about the drivers qualifying for the race that year. We each figured it wouldn't be the last time we met face to face. But it was.
John wasn't a Christian, so I can't have a lot of joy in this event. And this morning after the news sunk in, the thoughts that came to my mind were not of the good times we had shared, but the arguments we had. John was the classic curmudgeon. He was stubborn as could be and wouldn't back down if he thought he was right. On one occasion, he wasn't right, but he still came after me with both barrels. And in my humanity, I went into defense mode. Now I wonder if it was worth it. It was months ago, but John was never the same to me after that. In fact in his last few months he got a little more crusty. I really wish I had been a better witness to John. I doubt it would have made a lot of difference to him in the long run, but I hate to have given him such a bad impression of a Christian.
Last week someone sent my wife a link to the sex offender database. I decided to run the zip codes of some of the local towns and to my surprise I knew two people on the list. I speak to both of these guys every week. One man I know nothing about his background and the other I know just a couple details. Yet on their records are a gross sexual imposition charge or a child molestation charge. When I started entering zips into the system, I didn't think I'd recognize any names. I was more interested in how many there were and how close to my house. Yet here were two people whom I carry on conversations with regularly on that list. Had I visualized the people on the database, I'd have imagined scraggly-haired, strung-out, vacant-eyed men and the occasional overweight woman with multiple tattoos and missing teeth. Instead, the two I know are nothing like my stereotype.
I was too old to watch Sesame Street, but when some of my younger cousins visited, they had to watch the show. One of the segments was a look at the people in your neighborhood -- the people that we meet each day. I suppose the purpose was to inform the average 4 year-old that the man with a long coat, rubber boots and big hat, carrying an axe was someone they didn't need to run away from. But it made you think of the people you take for granted; mailman, policeman, meter reader, convenience store clerk.
Often we don't give these people a second look. We might know them well enough to say hello or to talk about the weather, but there are lives behind each person. More than that, Jesus loves each one of those people. And still more than that, Jesus died for these people. I must do my part to represent Christ to everyone, whether we meet face to face or computer post to computer post. I think I failed that with John. I don't want to fail anymore.
Why is it that some people just blend into the background like another advertisement on the wall? One of the things the Lord has really been speaking to me about is seeing people as Jesus saw them. Not simply walking by the poor, but helping. Not simply exchanging pleasantries, but really listening. Not being so concerned with being right as to distort the image of Jesus Christ to an unbeliever. That's the stuff my Heavenly Father convicts me of.
Lord, help me to see people as you see them. May the people that I meet be filled with the love which You give to me. May I be a channel through which You bless them.