Recently, some older folks that I spent some time with had serious issues with my tattoos. It wasn't the meaning behind the tattoos (they didn't ask) but just the fact that I have them in the first place. They categorized me as "one of those kind of people" and wrote me off. A verse came to mind as I was thinking about this reaction.
The prophet Samuel made a similar mistake as these older folks did. A guy called Eliab was the good looking strong eldest son of Jesse. Samuel figured that this was the guy that God was choosing to be the next king. Here's what God said in response –
"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7)
We all seem to judge people so quickly based upon how they look, what they wear, their accent perhaps, where they live. It's an easy trap to fall into. If the prophet Samuel did it, surely we're all prone to it. We see a punk with funny colored hair and a face full of piercings and jump to conclusions that his life is messed up and he should be avoided. Then, we see another guy wearing nice clothes and driving a decent car and assume that he's got his act together. WRONG. God sees straight through the external appearances and into a man's heart. We don't look at the heart because we simply can't. Only God can.
The people that have concluded inaccurate assumptions about my lifestyle and character based upon my tattoos have actually indirectly been used by the Lord to convict me of the same error in my own way of thinking. I'm so quick to assume that I know a person's life story within the first five minutes. Folks, we've gotta stop doing this. The next time you're overly confident about seeing a person's heart, remember what we read about our own hearts –
"The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9)
Hey, we can't even truly know our own hearts! Our hearts are jacked with ulterior motives and hidden agendas. Even when we think our intentions are pure, they oftentimes are not.
The solution to this is simple. We must cease our efforts to judge other people by their outward appearances OR by assuming that we can see the intentions and motives of their hearts. We should just love them the way that God loves them: unconditionally. Don't worry about what the external looks like and don't try to figure the degree of sincerity and authenticity. Leave it to God since He's the only one that can see the heart anyway.