When I walked out of the airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh and headed toward our taxi, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cars, bicycles, trucks, rickshaws, three-wheeled taxis and people everywhere. My thoughts turned to Mark 6:34: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
When we arrived at our hotel, we were told to get inside quickly and not leave without a Bangladeshi escort. Evidently the hotel was in a high crime area with pickpockets working as teams. One of the first things I noticed was the large number of people looking for handouts. A few were crippled, some had small children with them and some didn’t look any different from anyone else on the street. It was difficult to determine the difference between those really in need and those begging as a profession. We had been forewarned not to give money to anyone, because it could cause problems on the street. But it was unsettling to see so many in need and to realize I could do nothing for these beloved children of God.
Yes—that’s how I saw them. They were God’s beloved children who needed to know their Abba/Father and his love for them. I had compassion on them for lives filled with longing, their searching for answers, their pain.
I didn’t always view people this way. In times past I’ve travelled to developing countries and gotten impatient with the locals. I got tired of the incessant begging, of the pollution in the streets, at the rude way I perceived I was being treated, at the rude behavior in lines. (Although usually there were no lines; just a mob crowding forward trying to get to the front.) I’d get frustrated at the local people’s inability or unwillingness to be on time.
God has helped me see people as he sees them, which has changed my worldview. I am learning to appreciate cultural differences. I am learning to love and appreciate people as they are. Once my worldview changed, my behavior toward others changed, and I found it easier to build relationships with God’s beloved children in different cultures.
You do not have to cross oceans to learn this. We have multiple cultures in our communities, in our restaurants and stores. And it’s not just about culture. When we ask God to see others as he sees them, we stop paying such close attention to gender, age, race, ethnicity, lifestyle or religious background. We start to see people as Jesus saw them, and we start to respond as Jesus responded. “He had compassion on them and he began teaching them many things.”
When we start to see others from God’s point of view, we see them as brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words—as equals. We see others as having value. We see people that Jesus died for and lives for and loves. We see people Jesus has forgiven, and adopted and reconciled and included—whether they realize it or not. We see many who are confused about who God is, and we love them just as they are. We see some who have no clue that God is real or good or their Abba/Father and they act out accordingly, and we love them anyway. We see some who live lifestyles that frighten us, or that we are personally opposed to, and we love them anyway because they are God’s children.
When we ask God to help us see others as he sees them, I believe he gives us the ability to love people regardless of who they are, what they believe or what they do. And we desire to somehow, some way, let them see a bit of who God is through our response to them. Our constant hope and prayer is that God uses us and others to help all know they are loved and they are included.