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There is a big church in North Carolina that has classes every summer to help train people in different ministries. During one such period a few years ago, a young man appeared on campus where hundreds of others were. But this young man didn’t take part in any classes. He was always there to be seen, but never took an active role in anything.

His hair looked long and uncombed, he needed a shave, and he wore clothes that were older, somewhat dirty, and a little smelly. When they were having outdoor classes, this man always sat away from the others under a tree. When lunchtime came, he was there in the corner of the cafeteria. He never bothered anyone, and he never asked anyone for anything.

Finally, on the last day of classes, the pastor of the church was addressing all of the students in a general assembly. He reminded them that a life in Christ was all about helping others. And then he said he had a very special guest speaker. At that point, the young man dressed in the shabby clothes came in and walked up to the pulpit.

When he addressed the assembly, he told he was a Youth Pastor at a church in another state. He was asked to come to this campus and portray a homeless man who had no money, and to just ’hang around’ the students who were attending summer classes at that church. He reminded them that he had been there for two weeks, always making sure many people saw him. He said some came up and quickly handed him a few dollars to help buy his lunch, but then they walked off just as fast as they came to him.

He said nobody offered to see if he needed anything, and not one person actually tried to talk to him. He went on to tell them that how they reacted to him was how most people, including Christians, react to anyone who doesn’t look like they are the same kind of person they are.

We always tend to make our minds up about people based only on what they look like on the outside, but we seldom get around to looking past the outside to get to know what is on the inside. That is contrary to what Jesus wants and expects us to do.

(From a sermon by Bruce Ball, "HOT CHOCOLATE" 2/27/2009)

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