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1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

I first became a father in 2002. If you know me or my wife, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that our firstborn has taken a great interest in history, social justice, and public policy. He’s a bit reserved, so I was incredibly proud of how he stretched himself in becoming the captain of his High School debate team, as well as captain of the Forensics team, which just won the State Championship in Kansas. We can’t wait to see all that God will do through him as he goes off to college this fall and continues to use his gifts and graces to bless others.

I became a father again in 2007, with the birth of our second son. Again, it’s not surprising to any who know us to hear that he loves to communicate and to make people happy, and from his earliest days would go out of his way to make people smile. He’s expressive and smart and incredibly creative. Last year he was lead in his Middle School play, with three times as many lines as the next person. Biased though I may be, he excelled! It was humbling to see him shine on that stage. As he enters High School this fall, we can’t wait to see all the doors he’ll walk through and all the ways he’ll continue to seek to bless others.

Like most parents who have multiple children, I can readily point to the differences between my two sons. The older they get, the more they physically resemble each other, but their personalities are still very distinct. By just looking at them you’d not be able to predict who is the outgoing one and who tends to be shyer. To know their personality, you’d have to get to know them.

God knows each of us, just like a loving Heavenly Parent, for God knows us well and is close to us. The passage from 1 Samuel reflects this. As the sons of Jesse walk before the prophet Samuel, he evaluates them one by one, based on his own criteria and what he can see, what he can assume.  But 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that “God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

Tertullian, who died around the year 220, wrote of this, saying, “You are human, and so you know other people only from the outside. You think as you see, and you see only what your eyes let you see. But the eyes of the Lord are lofty.” He went on to imply that God sees the wicked and will judge them accordingly. But the end of 1 Samuel 15 seems to point to a different perspective God desires from us. As verse 35 says, “Samuel never saw Saul again before he died, but he grieved over Saul.”

Consider the example of many through the Scriptures. After meeting Christ, Andrew desired to find his brother Peter, so that he could meet the Christ as well. Philip did the same with this friend Nathanael. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he said that he “wrote to them in tears” that they might know his love and the love of God, and thereby surrender to and follow God’s will. Just as Samuel lamented for Saul and his failures, good people have always sorrowed for the sins of others, and cared about others and how they can draw close to God.

The Gospel Lesson for this week, from Mark 4, finds Jesus sharing two short illustrations, both about the Kingdom of God and both about Kingdom growth happens, often without our awareness or understanding. Such growth and grace certainly happen in the lives of people, too.

It is helpful then to consider if when we see other people in their struggles, do we pat ourselves on the back, justifying ourselves by saying, “I’m not as bad as that”? Do we condemn others for their sins, though we are quick to overlook our own? Do we take the time to get to know people deeply, or do we simply judge superficially? And in getting to know others, including being vulnerable enough to let others know us, do we find ourselves filled with compassion or contempt?

May we all have sorrow for our own sins and the sins of others, and learn to see as God sees, looking at the heart and not just the outward appearance.