You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
Whilst many birds have migrated to warmer climes for the winter my old friend the robin has stayed at home. He is made of sterner stuff! I saw him this morning as I was making a cup of tea. He was sitting on my neighbour’s roof, surveying his territory – I thought it was my garden but he sees things differently. To me it is a garden past its prime, in need of a good tidy up but to him it is a source of the food he needs to get him through the winter. We see things in a different way.
Indeed, we see our fellow man in different ways. For example; how do we see the young mother fiercely holding her child to her whilst desperately trying to climb from the overcrowded, sinking boat to the safety of a rescue vessel amongst her fellows all pushing and shoving trying to make sure they do not drown? Do we see her as a terrorist, a criminal, someone only interested in claiming benefits from our welfare system, someone disturbing our status quo? Or do we see her as a desperate mother trying to care for her child as best she can?
When Samuel was sent to Jesse to find a king among his sons he thought he had found the ideal candidate in Eliab:
‘But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.’ 1 Samuel 16:7 KJV
This I think is the crux of the matter, God has given us eyes to see but do we really see? Do we see as the Lord sees – not the outward appearance but the heart? Do we look with compassion on those worse off than ourselves or do we leave it to someone else to deal with the problem? Some countries are not prepared to take the chance and have erected fences to keep refugees from entering their countries, whilst some advocate walls should be built to keep everyone out. But is that not closing one’s eyes to the problem? We look, certainly but often do not see the sorrow, the suffering all around us since it is easier not to; we would rather look the other way. Yet sinners, the blind, the lame, and lepers were welcome within the holy community Jesus was forming and we likewise are called to show compassion to our neighbour.
I see an untidy garden whilst the robin sees a food store; we see refugees, the down-trodden, God sees human beings made in His own image. So must we.
Lord, we thank you for the gift of sight. We pray that we may use that gift wisely, to look upon the heart of our neighbour rather than his outward appearance; to look upon him with an eye of tender compassion.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years