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How to look at people

How to look at people

This calls for an about-face.

At mid-morning, Harrisburg sidewalks are fairly empty. I’ve stopped here on my way home with the specific purpose of taking impromptu photos of people. It’s going to be a bit tricky.

As I travel, I generally don’t notice people very much, sadly. I suppose it’s in the nature of journeys – the mind is set on the destination. People are either just part of the landscape or part of the process. All too often, they are a means to an end.

But even short journeys – running errands around town – can put similar blinders on us.

There’s an odd contrast on these streets. I pass people, but they’re story-less, enigmatic. (Why is this man standing like this? Is this comfortable?) But the public art is much more face-based and intimate, almost as if it’s an antidote to the anonymity of the city.

Like the Sermon on the Mount (which I’m studying in my devotions), they remind us not to turn people into objects.

It’s easy to see objectification in lust.  Jesus speaks to that Matt. 5:28. The object of desire exists only to meet the viewer’s purposes.

But anger does the same (5:22). As does hatred. It views another in terms of what he or she has done to us.  They are defined by our needs.

The other day, I became increasingly annoyed at the string of people I was getting rerouted to on what should have been a simple call to set up an appointment. While on hold between unhelpful voices, I realized that my impatience grew from a sense of entitlement. I deserved that easy process.  How dare you not give it to me!

Not a thought about the three-dimensional person on the other end of the phone.

Paul writes:

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”  2 Cor. 5:16

There are many ways to read the word worldly. But today, I wonder if it could be put into this framework.  We no longer look at people as a means to our own end. We used to look at Jesus that way – as if he existed only to serve our needs – but now we see life as orbiting around what he wants.

So, because of that, we reorient our view of others.

They are all a work of God.  I’m surprised to find this rough attempt at Michelangelo’s famous painting on an overpass.  But it speaks directly to my issue.  There can be no greater example of giving love than the act of creation.

Unless it is to die to redeem that very same creation from its own self-centeredness.

We are meant to be the image-bearers of that love.  That requires us to truly see the people around us.

And keep ourselves from blocking the view.

Lord, help us to see others the way you see them.  Help us to love them with your giving love.

Reader: How have you seen someone in the light of God’s love recently?  Tell me about it.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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