We used to have a saying out in the strip mining industry, "You can tell our boss coming a mile away, but up close you can't tell him anything." I know this sounds disrespectful but it was said more in jest than in belligerence.
A few weeks ago, I shared about my climb up the narrows overlooking route 322 in Mifflin county. The climb was arduous and near the top I encountered a rock field. Literally a stretch of rocks (goonies) about 250 feet wide and 450 feet long created quite a spectacle. Each rock rested on another and in some cases they toggled when I stepped on them, Watch it there! Others were covered in a fine mossy covering that was dry the day I encountered them, but would be slippery when damp.
Yesterday, I traveled through the Narrows on my way to Reedsville and gazed up on the side of the mountain. Hmm, the rock field looks so small from down here, but I know better.
Is it possible we as a culture tend to view others from a distance and immediately decide we know them and either judge them harshly or dismiss them all together? Our country is locked in a deathroll of rhetoric and anger towards each other over political, religious, and a host of other divisive topics. It is probably true that we can't all agree on everything. Can we at least agree in principle that listening to another person and getting to know them is our responsibility?
Scaling the mountainside and actually traversing the rock field gave me a new appreciation of the complexities found with each new step. I could see the intricacy of one rock placed on another and how they seem to be locked together (either by their weight or shape). Jesus gave us a model for connecting with others (especially those we wouldn't ordinarily approach).
"Now he (Jesus) had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot
of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the
journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw
water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The
Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a
drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) [John 4:4-9, NIV]
The next time you are inclined to throw a knee-jerk reactionary comment toward a person or people group before you talk to them, stop! Go to them, learn their story, and consider investing some time into a conversation. After talking to a person, you might still launch the knee-jerk reactionary comment, but you'll at least have done due dilligence to get to know the person. Who knows, maybe during the course of discourse you might gain a new friend.