Over the past few weeks, I’ve been downsizing my magic inventory, selling tricks and props that I haven’t used in quite a while. In the process, I’ve discovered that magic items are a lot like new cars: once you drive off the lot, their value drops like a rollercoaster. I’m lucky if I can resell a trick that I bought for $100 at a third of the original price — and sometimes that includes shipping.
Human beings aren’t magic tricks, of course, but so often we depreciate others. Consider the ways:
WE DEPRECIATE PEOPLE WHO AREN’T LIKE US
A long time ago, I walked down a church hallway wearing a jogging outfit, complete with sweatband and worn sneakers. I was about to do a skit, but the two women who were approaching me didn’t know that. They eyed me suspiciously, like I was a homeless guy tramping in from the highway, and uttered nary a word as they passed — not even the obligatory “Hi.” After worship, eating lunch in the fellowship hall, they said, “If we had known you were the guest preacher, we would’ve said something to you in the hall.”
We don’t want to say it out loud, but we tend to politely shun those who aren’t “like us.” Sure, compatibility is nice. But shouldn’t our circle be wider? Jesus said, “If you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:47) Christ-followers must fight that selfish tendency to devalue people who are different.
WE DEPRECIATE PEOPLE IF THEY DISAGREE WITH US
I admit it: I’ve unfriended people on Facebook because they’ve disagreed with me on politics or religion. I bet you have, too.
We can’t avoid conflict. Even the early church wasn’t in complete unanimity on certain issues of theology and practice. Besides, is it always a bad thing when a person doesn’t see eye-to-eye with you on something? Sometimes, good things can happen when presumptions are challenged. Many scientific discoveries have been made because a great thinker confronted the status-quo mindset. On a more mundane level, I’ve dropped some unproductive thoughts and habits because someone, somewhere, presented an alternate view.
Even if we are left with a disagreement, the Bible repeatedly tells us to do away with wrath and put on longsuffering. Anything less and we act like unchanged people. We run the risk of messing up our witness to a world who wants to know if our God is real.
WE DEPRECIATE PEOPLE IF THEY CAN’T DO ANYTHING FOR US
I know a retired pastor and his wife who had a heart for student ministry. Years ago, they wanted to launch a college ministry in the church where they were serving. One night, during a finance meeting, a church member strongly suggested that they put their efforts elsewhere. “College kids aren’t revenue-producing,” he said.
Do we do unto others only if they can do unto us? That’s not the Golden Rule. It’s not even lead. Linus Pauling, the renowned chemist, summed up his ethical system when he said, “I have something that I call my Golden Rule. It goes something like this: ‘Do unto others twenty-five percent better than you expect them to do unto you.’ The twenty-five percent is for error.”
God doesn’t depreciate people. Neither should we. Human beings — no matter what they look like, no matter what they say, no matter what they do — are priceless pieces of art created in the divine image. Some are marred and others are faded, but if we can see the value behind the damage, true magic happens. That’s when we become like Jesus.
Shun picture courtesy of Keith Zulawnik via Flickr