Pruning False Images of Others

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Again, we’re working off of a quote from CS Lewis, a quote that is directly related to the content of the recent sermons: “There are three images in my mind which I must continually forsake and replace by better ones: the false image of God, the false image of my neighbors, and the false image of myself.

Today, I want to draw our attention to our false images of our neighbors.

If we’re not careful, we conceive of others as the worst versions of themselves.

In the terms of the “human condition” framework I’ve been using, we see them simply as the manifestations of the false self: fearful, fake, guarded, performative, or deceptive.

Or we see them simply as the sum total of their distorted selves: ego-driven, sinful, crooked, broken, imperfect, and all the while, believing narratives that do not reflect God’s design or God’s intentions.

But what if, instead of seeing them as their false or distorted selves, what we if saw the image of God within them, focused on that instead, and attempted to draw out the amazing potential within???

As I mentioned in the sermon on February 26 (link), the creation narrative in Genesis 1 tells us human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation. Each person you encounter has more potential beauty and depth than the most amazing wonder of the natural world.

We rarely live like we believe that, but what if we did? … We rarely live like we believe that, but what if we did??!!

Then, we would be more like Jesus.

He continually encounters the worst of humanity and in almost every case, calls out the best in people. Allow me to paraphrase Jesus’ message in a few well-known stories: 

  • Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You only see this woman as a distortion of love, but you could see, in the washing of my feet, the very manifestation of love as I intended.” (see Luke 7:36-50)
  • Again, He says to Pharisees, “You might be jealous of these ‘sinners’ becoming children of God, but you could experience joy at the recognition of a new brother or sister.” (see Luke 15)
  • He says to the women at the well, “You might have a lifestyle that causes you to come to the well at midday, but you could worship the Messiah in Spirit and in truth.” (see John 4:1-26)
  • He says to the disciples, “You might see someone to avoid, but you could see fields that are ripe for the harvest.” (see John 4:27-38)
  • He ways to Peter, who has betrayed him, “You have a capacity that you know not of—the capacity to be the shepherd of my sheep, the very rock upon which I found my church.” (see John 21:15-19, Matthew 16:13-20)  

What if we were to emulate Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith?

To get there, we need to let the Vine-grower prune our false images of others. We need Him to give us new eyes in our hearts, so that we don’t just see the worst in people (their false and distorted selves), but instead, see the best (the potential to be mature in Christ and reflect the fullness of God’s glory!).

TODAY’s PRAYER: Master Gardener, prune me of all the false images I have of others. Prune me of all the stories I believe about them so that I can see them as you see them. Prune me of my deadly, ungodly presumptions so that I can bear fruit in your Kingdom by drawing out the best in people—your best in people.

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