“Sarita would walk with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was skinny, even afraid of her own shadow. Would her life ever change? Sarita grew up on the island of Kiniwata in the Pacific. Her father hardly believed that she would ever find a husband.
One day, a very skilled and smart man nicknamed Johnny Lingo noticed Sarita and wanted to marry her. The custom was to bring a dowry to the parents of the wife-to-be, and cows were the customary gift. Everyone knew that two to three cows could be given for a nice wife; four to five cows would be customary for a very nice one. So, the people of Kiniwata were astounded when they heard that Johnny Lingo, without bargaining, gave eight cows for Sarita.
Weeks after the wedding, Shenkin, a shopkeeper on the island, came to deliver a gift Johnny had bought for Sarita. Shenkin could not believe his eyes! The Sarita he had known weeks before had become a very beautiful woman. She was graceful and showed inner confidence and dignity. What had happened?
Johnny had known that a woman would feel degraded knowing that a low-value dowry was offered for her. Because Johnny valued Sarita so much, Sarita changed. Her posture and the look in her eyes showed that she had grown and blossomed. How Sarita viewed herself was the key. Now she knew she was worth more than any other woman on the island to Johnny.” (This story was told in an article in Reader’s Digest, February 1988).
Do you see what God sees?
Having value and being valued is something each of us wants to feel. I daresay, we long to be valued. Many of us orient our whole life around being valued by others. I know that I have done this, and I think, you have too. We find meaning in life through our value. We achieve in order to be valued. We love in order to be valued.
Our own “value” is important to each of us. Our true value is found in God. God demonstrated His value of us by giving His Son, Jesus, as the sin offering so that we can be connected to God. It is only when we understand the source of our value that we change, and equally important that we can see the value in others. This simple story about Sarita shows how seeing other people for their true value has a way of drawing out and forming that value in them.
Who do you value?
Besides valuing ourselves, we tend to value others we perceive as being like us. We tend to dismiss and not value those who have physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities; those who are from a lower economic class; those with less formal education; the immigrant, the foreigner, the refugee, to name a few.
When I read this story about Saria and as I understand God’s valuing of me, I had to seriously consider some questions. Who do I spend time with? Who do I/ who do you make room for at the table at school, at work, at church? Which group or clique are you trying to get into and why? Who are you ruling out of your group? Whose name do you casually insert in a conversation to link yourself with them in order to raise your value in the eyes of others?
Jesus asks a pointed question, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.,” Luke 6:32. It is a question worthy of my reflection, especially if I claim to be a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus – The Value Maker
Throughout the gospels, we read account after account of Jesus valuing those that people, especially religious people, did not value. To whom did Jesus reach out and minister?
In Mark 5:1-8, we read of a man who lived among the tombs and who was sorely troubled and distressed wandering the graveyard crying out and cutting himself. I daresay that not many of us would reach out to that man, after all, he is not safe and what would other people think if they saw me with him. We probably are not going to extend hospitality to him.
The townspeople’s response to this man was to fear him and to chain and shackle him. They did not want him to be around them. He had not value to them; he was just an annoyance. But Jesus met the man where he was, at the edge of the tombs. Jesus conversed with him, asked questions, and saw the value of this man hidden under all the dirt, bloody cuttings, smells and his strange behaviors. Jesus took time and used His spiritual power and compassion to restore value to this man.
In John 4:4-30, we read of a “fallen” woman, who was rejected by her community to the point that she had to come to draw water from the town well during the heat of the day because she was not welcome to be in the company of the other women. After all, what “self-respecting, morally upright” village woman would want to be seen in the company of the known town adulterous!
I venture to say that many of us “spiritual” women would perhaps do a similar thing today. We would not want to be associated with such a woman; it might harm our reputation. In addition, helping her might require too much time and effort. Afterall, we are busy people with our families and ministering to our “select others.”
But Jesus, saw the amazing value in this woman. She did not know about her value in God. It is clear that her husbands, or her community did not give her value.
Even though this woman presented herself to Jesus in a contentious manner as she peppered him with questions, Jesus persisted.
He was tired and thirsty, but took time to invest in her, to sit in the heat and talk to her. Indeed, He even revealed to her some secrets of the kingdom of God, as well as His true identity. He treated her as a woman of value, not one to be avoided and scorned. He was right to invest time and truth in her, she ended up bringing the whole town out to hear His gospel of living water.
So, what about us?
There are many more examples of Jesus reaching out to the those whom we would label the “undesirable, the marginal, the unwanted.” I am grateful that God does not see me as unwanted, undesirable, even though after coming to faith in Jesus, I still do not have my act together.
The scriptures indicate that God loves us in our “unlovable” times, Romans 5:8 states, “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” In fact, He is devoted to us.
God has given us two overarching commands: “… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” Matt. 22:36-40. These commands are core to our relationship with God.
In speaking to His disciples, Jesus unveils what the second command looks like when He said; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,”
Jesus left an example for us. If we are His followers, then we will look to His example to know how to love others. Loving others like Jesus loves is not easy. However, I am encouraged and given hope when I remember, I am not in this alone. Jesus has given us His Spirit who has “poured God’s love into our hearts,” Romans 5:5. So, the love we need is already in us.
There is even more hope for us in the truth that the Holy Spirit is transforming our hearts, souls, will and character as we walk with Him. So, let us show forth His image by loving others.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18