My friend, Doug, used to have a common phrase that he would use on me all the time; "don't miss the lesson." The Lord is teaching me through this time and it is my prayer that I do not miss this lesson.
This week we were in a different city and doing a lot of walking. The children were getting restless so we all decided to find a specific park and let the children play for a while. We rode the tram-line (think light rail) in the direction of the park but the tram-line abruptly ended forcing us all to get off. As we got off, the sign notified us that we must wait for 12 minutes before the next bus that would take us to our final destination.
As we settled into wait we could hear a voice being raised over a loud speaker. I looked around to find where it was coming from and noticed a Muslim man speaking into a bull-horn while a man stood behind him filming him with a camera. This appeared to be a GREAT opportunity to speak to this man and his colleagues about Jesus. So my friend and I headed over choosing to take a different route to the park when we were finished.
To make a long story short we had a pretty significant discussion about the glories of Jesus with one of the most radical men (and his crew) in all of Europe. In the end we prayed over him asking Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wished him well.
As a westerner, it is easy to look at people like this through the eyes of fear or hate as we see people as part of larger groupings. We can make all of the political statements and threats we want but it does no good. In the interaction with this man I began to get a glimpse of a man who is desperately trying to please God and making a mess at the same time, even at the cost of human life. This has been the story of my life to some degree. I want to please God but in my efforts to win His (already given) favor I make a mess and hurt people.
This week I began to get a first hand glimpse that perfect love truly does cast out all fear. I know this man's name and he is now the subject of many of my prayers. I want to see God touch him. I do not want to see him harmed but I want him to know the true peace that is only found in Jesus.
I found myself telling this young man that it is not enough to know that God loves people in general we must know that He loves each of us, in specific. Yet I had been so guilty of isolating myself from individuals and lumping people together as 'blocs' or 'groupings of people.' The same thing I said he was guilty of was exactly what I was putting on him. I, personally, did not see him as a person but as a part of a radical group with beliefs different from my own.
May the Lord Jesus grow me in the discipline of loving people specifically and not falling into the trap of generalization.
One of my favorites quotes is from Rees Howells:
"If you can love one, then you can love many, if you can love many, then you can love all."