Things unseen

Scott Fitzgerald opens his novel, The Great Gatsby, with the narrator recalling his father’s advice not to jump to conclusions about people. It is all about reserving judgement and coming to know people slowly. I suppose most people, from time to time, fall into the trap of putting others in categories; this one is clever and amusing; that one is dull and too serious; a third person is just someone to ignore.

And so we go on weaving our way through life, accepting and dismissing people as we go. Sometimes it gets more serious and people are simply used by others as bricks to build the house of their ambitions.

Faith is the knowledge of things unseen, St Paul says somewhere, and certainly when dealing with people there is an awful lot unseen. It is easy to deal with people who are friendly, outgoing, interesting and amusing. It is harder to meet people who are complex, serious, quiet and awkward. And yet we know each one has their own story, their own journey, hopes and fears. I often meet people who are intellectually disabled and who do not speak and do not even look at you.

How do we welcome this wide spectrum of other people without coming to hasty judgements? We live in a more tolerant age than our ancestors.

We are learning how to accept people who are different by race, religion, culture, intellectual ability or sexual orientation. But we still don’t get too close to those we consider different and difficult.

Toleration is one thing, welcome is another. If we are to move out of our default mode of instantly judging people we need help. Jesus saw through the outward image of people, whether they were self- righteous religious leaders, outcast lepers, oppressive tax-collectors or condemned prostitutes. He had a way of going to the heart of a person that touched that person and those who noticed.

Each person is charged with a potential that we do not see and cannot measure. The ancient belief in the “resurrection of the body” makes absolutely no sense unless it is seen as pointing to the final triumph of each person whom we take now just as they are with all their gifts and limitations.

Post published in: Faith

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