This devotional is adapted from my new series, "The Gospel In Your Neighborhood" - available exclusively to those who sign up for Paul Tripp Plus.
Last week I wrote to you about The Christian Ghetto, and how I'm concerned that too much of our time is spent within the safe confines of Christian ministry and friendship. If we rarely step foot into the world, how can we expect to be lights of the world? (Matthew 5:14)
So over the next few weeks, I'm going to give you some practical strategies to live as light in your neighborhood. The first one sounds simple, but I've found that I complicate it all the time! Here it is: if you want to be a light in your neighborhood, you have to see people as people.
After September 11th, I had a heart-wrenching conversation with a manager of a restaurant in one of the towers. He said to me, "I can't get over the grief that I never saw these people as people. They were my waiters, chefs, busboys, hosts, and event planners - but they weren't people to me."
Weeping, he said, "I've gone to funeral after funeral for my employees, and I've sat with their parents, their spouses, and their children. I've heard their stories, and now these people are all people to me. But they're gone."
As I listened, I felt so guilty, because I do the same thing almost every day. I interact with many people, but I don't see them as people. She's the checkout clerk. He's the parking lot attendant. She's the dry-cleaner. He's the hardware store salesman.
On many occasions, I forget these are real people. In my eyes, they simply exist to do a task. But in God's eyes, they have a story, with hurt in their past. They have a heart, with a desire to be loved. They have fears and concerns. They live with hopes and dreams.
If you want to live as light in your world, ask God to give you the eyes, the ears, and the heart to see people as people. Then, engage people as people. Ask them questions, and stick around long enough to listen: "How are you doing today?" or "How are you feeling?" or "How has your week been?" Maybe even be bold enough to ask, "How can I pray for you?"
I was out with a friend for dinner, and he said to the waiter, "We like to pray before we eat. How can we pray for you?" The waiter was caught off guard and mumbled, "I don't think I really need any prayer" before walking away. But he came back five minutes later and said, "I recently found out that my girlfriend is pregnant, and I'm terrified of being a father. Would you pray for me?"
What an amazing opportunity to be a light in this man's world! And how did it all start? Because my friend saw the waiter as a person - and not just a waiter - and then engaged him as a person.
What about you? Especially in places where you go frequently, see people as people, engage people as people, and then be a light into the relationship that develops.
Paul David Tripp
- Think of at least 2 people in your neighborhood with whom you interact with regularly. In what ways have you neglected to see and engage them as people?
- What are some specific questions you can ask to make them feel loved and cared for?