You can’t tell a book by its cover. Hmm. What can you “tell” a book, anyway? We’ve all heard the saying and understand that a book’s contents, its quality, its worth, is best determined by digesting what’s on the pages. A first impression solely from a flashy cover page can easily oversell the product and disappoint the reader. We know better than to rely on “covers.”But what about another saying we are familiar with: “First impressions matter?” When it comes to how we assess people and how they “read” us, i.e. check out our “covers,” the first impression can start an attitude or evaluation moving with a full head of steam and is often hard to change. We’ve all experienced that, haven’t we?
When Jesus came on the scene we can see in Matthew 11 and Luke 7 that many in the religious establishment perceived him as a maverick, a rebel. They didn’t like his methods or his manners and called him a glutton, a drunkard and a sinner. He ate foods that His Father had declared clean and appropriate, he drank his portion of wine and likely associated with people who drank their share and then some, and he had the audacity to be a “friend” of sinners. Jesus often “hung” with the “wrong”crowd, so he must have been on par with the “wrong” crowd – – or so the elites thought. Come to think of it, today Jesus might be enshrined in the local SJW chapter, except that Jesus was as thorough to deal with sin as he was to point out social wrongs and he modeled a very admirable moral code.
Jesus was such a “gutsy” man. He had none of the academic accolades of his contemporaries and critics, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and they had little belief that the source of his teaching and preaching was of divine origin and was as impeccably in concert with God as God could be with himself. Can you imagine the discomfort the religious elite felt when in their hearts they were convicted as to how right what Jesus said was, though outwardly their blindness, stubbornness and conformity kept them from receiving both Jesus and the truth he communicated? Jesus was such an anomaly. How do you process a man like that? Grace. And truth. And love.
When people look at and hear you and me, especially in times like we are experiencing, are they drawn to us or repelled by us? There will naturally be a lot of people who reject us outright, but hopefully that rejection is not caused by our character . . . or our words. Assuredly we are to be truth tellers, but even Jesus modeled in excellent form ways to communicate truth without crushing people with his beliefs or standards. We can do that. Paul tells us in Eph. 4:15 “we are to speak the truth in love and we are to grow more and more like Christ.” Can you handle opposition? Rudeness? Disagreement? Possible rejection? Jesus navigated through all of that and did so in a winsome fashion. He knew he wasn’t going to win everyone to his way of thinking and we aren’t either, even with our kindest and best efforts!
So back to that first impression. We, as Christians, have probably at times appeared to be everything the public and even other Christians have accused us to be. Sure we are often misunderstood, but we are also rightly understood when we don’t come across too well. We must never lose sight that Jesus loves everyone, even those who despise or reject him. Some of us were guilty of that ourselves. As long as they draw breath, Jesus will love them and his Spirit will minister to them with the goal of drawing them step by step nearer to faith in him. Just look at us! Some of us pushed away faith for years.
Two qualities in Jesus’ life have always stood out to me. I admire them in the people I know as well. They are patience, which is a mark of the Spirit’s presence in all believers, and the other is compassion. Jesus knows life is hard. He knows belief is difficult for many. He understands that and reads hearts exceptionally well. He realizes that the hearts and minds of the unsaved are darkened by sin from birth and that only by receiving the Spirit’s ministry to them will they have the illumination and desire to seek after God and embrace Him. Darkness is a pitiful state.
What are people seeing when they read your “cover?” What the Spirit has for us to display in abundance the world craves in its shortage. This “fruit” the Spirit bears is to be hanging all over us. It is a witness to the world that we are different, and as such a fragrant and lovely covering it’s almost impossible to resist. Got Jesus? Then you got “fruit-bearing” ability. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22-23) That’s pretty irresistible. Think About It.