By Galen C. Dalrymple
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."(1 Samuel 16:7)
Some folks were of the entirely deluded opinion that Ramses the Great was an ugly dog. He was not the "fawn," caramel-colored kind of boxer. He was the darker "brindle" type with brown and black stripes and splotches intermingled. On each foot he sported a lily-white sock, and around his neck a white tie. His eyes were chocolate brown, and his underbite was rather severe. Yet all those people who saw him in the neighborhood and crossed to the other side of the street never saw how sweet and expressive those eyes were, and never learned how the underbite was perfectly designed to give his tongue a quicker exit for licking the hands of new friends. A heart of gold is not visible from the outside.
It's so easy to make snap judgments on the basis of outward appearance, isn't it? I must confess that I do it frequently myself. I don't mean that I look at people and decide whether they are good or bad. But I do make quick -- and often erroneous -- judgments about whether or not I would enjoy getting to know them, whether or not I want to introduce myself. Shame on me.
In the verse above, God tells Samuel what He sees when he considers a person. It appears in the midst of the story about how David was chosen to become, eventually, the King of Israel. All the sons of Jesse were bigger and stronger and taller. Each had a more kingly bearing than the scrubby, small, red-faced boy who was out in the pasture with the sheep. Thus Samuel went through all the other young men, from the tallest to the shortest, looking for the man who looked, at least according to human expectations, as though he fit the part. Those who looked at Ramses the Great and judged him a dangerous dog were not unlike Samuel; though Ramses was Lord of the Nile, he was the gentlest and sweetest dog you could ever ask for, one of the most humanly joyful animals (in my authoritative opinion) that ever lived.
Those who crossed the street to avoid Ramses the Great were also like the Pharisee who avoided the wounded traveler in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. When we make snap judgments on the basis of appearance, we may miss out not only on extraordinary people and relationships, but also on the opportunity to do the work and answer the calling of God. The Pharisee saw the wounded traveler and saw nothing but danger and miserable obligation; the Good Samaritan saw the heart of God and the opportunity to extend love and care.
Are you guilty of judging on the basis of externals, rather than getting to know the heart? Let's not beat around the bush. Natural though it is, it is wrong. Jesus himself was not outwardly beautiful. Just as God chooses the weak and the foolish things of the world to shame the mighty and the strong, so God can choose the ugly and the unassuming to shame the beautiful and pretentious. God did not want us to love Jesus because of his external beauty, did not want us to draw near to Jesus because he is personally attractive. God wants us to learn to look at the heart, to be concerned in ourselves and in others not with the beauty of the body but with the inward beauty of the humble spirit that has trusted in God and been purified by the blood of Christ.
Ramses the Great, by the way, was perfectly beautiful in my eyes. His fur shined, he was constantly expressive, and warmly loving. He was beautiful from the inside out. But alas, Ramses the Great is no more. His outward form has been taken from me, but the inward beauty of his soul remains present. The beauty of the world fades and withers, but let us cultivate the beauty of the spirit of Christ within us, a beauty that will endure forever. And let us not fail to see that beauty in one another as well.
Further installments in the "Lessons My Dog Taught Me" series will appear each Monday at the Evangelical Portal.
Galen Dalrymple pastors Vineyard Hills Christian Church, a non-denominational Evangelical church in the wine country of California. His daily meditations, Daybreaks, are received by readers all over the country.