What we see with our eyes may or may not be reality. Sometimes our vision is clouded by our own perception—what we think we see or want to see. At other times, that fog lifts either through a direct experience or by divine revelation, and we behold a true representation of that which is actually being manifested. In other words sometimes we see what we want to see, but occasionally we see what is truly before us.
Nowhere is this more common than when we look at another person who may or may not be like us. Our perception of that person is formed too often by prejudice, culture, half-truths (which by the way are “whole” lies), folk, family, or faith beliefs, and plain old ignorance. We look at a person, issue a verdict based on bad or no information, and then pigeon hole that individual, group, or race into a narrow perspective and record that faulty file in the memory of our mind. Then each time we see someone who fits that profile, we dial up that defective folder and presto change oh—we see what we want to see rather than the person who is actually standing before us.
This defective vision not only affects those who claim to be followers of Christ—it’s effects blind almost all. Conservatives see raging devils intent on destroying the country in their liberal counterparts, who see the exact same thing in conservatives. Blacks and whites eye one another through the foggy lens of suspicion and mistrust, while both groups stare at those who are brown skinned with fear, distrust, and animosity. Likewise the brown skins keep to themselves and in turn trust no one outside their community. Militant homosexuals and fundamental Christian heterosexuals have drawn the battle lines and used the little shovels in their backpacks to erect their fortifications and foxholes from which to lob verbal grenades back and forth, intent on seeing the other side utterly destroyed or languishing in a fiery hell.
This faulty perception soon turns into an out and out attempt to paint the other group as insensitive, racist, warped, old fashioned, or intolerant. In other words, we demonize those we don’t agree with, understand, or care to get to know. We retreat rather than confront. Confrontation is not a bad thing. We can agree to disagree, but we cannot refuse to see one another as human beings. When we do, we lose far too much of our humanity.
Most of these trite little categories dehumanize a human being. That then makes it far easier to ignore, villainize, and even hate that other person. That’s why political advertisements pit us against one another with their garbage-filled commercials. They know that if they arouse those old sectarian, racial, or regional biases, that this passionate flame will effectively separate us into special interest groups intent on seeing our own specific agendas fulfilled rather than what might be best for one another and ultimately this country.
How do we change this? It’s impossible you might be thinking. That’s the way it’s always been. I agree, it has been that way, but I disagree it has to remain that way. We will never all agree, but we can stop judging one another based on categories, beliefs, and behavior, and start seeing one another first as human beings. What we do does not define who we are. What we do or don’t agree on does not define who we are. What we believe does not necessarily determine who we are. That has been effectively proven by centuries of the same old same old and countless generations who have ignorantly perpetrated the same old crimes of bigotry and hate upon one another.
Reality states that each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. I didn’t make that up, God declared that! That means every one of us is a human being first and foremost. Things could possibly change if we started looking at one another with new eyes—eyes that see the person hidden beneath the color, the choices, or a thousand other categories we seem intent on hiding behind.
Hey! Look at me—the human being—instead of what I seem to be doing as a human being. That’s the first step in learning to love one another. We may agree on everything, but we do have to love one another—especially if any of us want to label ourselves as followers of Christ.