For the past four years I have been on a journey. It started with a church visit to explain the campus ministry for whom I work, and a question from one of the congregants: “Is there anything we as a church can do to better prepare our kids for the spiritual challenges of college?” As I tried to give a short answer, as we were near the end of our time, I told the group I would like to write a book on that very topic.
And that is what I have been trying to do since. But what I have realized along the way is that few people really care about the work you put into something, unless it is something they, too, are interested. The research, the hours of writing and re-writing, and the work involved in submitting proposals to publishing companies and agents. During this process, I asked at least ten people to read my manuscript and they agreed to do that. Only three actually did. In the publishing world, for those who receive unsolicited queries and proposals, I came to realize that the industry practice is to tell the submitter it will take up to 12 weeks for a response, and if there is no response by that time, then he or she is to assume that the company is not interested in the proposal.
One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis is this:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” The Weight of Glory
Lewis understood what so many today do not: each individual person is a creation of God. Each has his stamp of validation upon him, no matter her social/economic status, where he lives, what she does, whether he is a charismatic individual or a rather dull one. None are mere ordinary people. The fact that each of us is created by the God of the Universe makes us extraordinary from the very start.
Thus, in our dealings with people, that should always be in the front of our minds. It is said that Lewis answered personally every letter ever written to him. If true, therein lies the evidence of his beliefs about humankind. Sadly, this is by far the exception, even among Christians. I remember being on a mission trip to a Central American country years ago where we had been visiting a church and were on our way back to where we were staying. Along with us was our interpreter. She was a national and we were to drop her off at a petrol station. It was late and dark. She asked the driver to wait until her ride arrived, but one of the American leaders was insistent that we leave because we needed to get back for evening devotions. The interpreter was terrified because it was a rather dangerous area for a woman to be at night. I insisted that we remain. The leader was quite unhappy with me, because, in her words, the woman worked for the mission and she couldn’t expect such special treatment. But what she could not see was painfully obvious: this woman was God’s handiwork and she felt endangered. She was also a sister in the Lord; she was family. How could we just drop her off in the dark and leave her alone? She had intrinsic value and we were going to treat her in that manner.
I don’t expect the world to do this, but I think it is a fair expectation of those who claim to be followers of Jesus. We are to treat people differently, in a way that demonstrates they have value, and it is sad when we fall far short of that. I am guilty of this at times, and I am sure you are as well. We are sinners and we fall to this sin as we do to many others. Yet, it should not be endemic in our lives or our businesses if we bear the name of Jesus. We should strive to do better.
The publishers and agencies to which I have sent my proposals all claim to be Christian enterprises; yet their practices often mirror those of the world doing the same thing. Shouldn’t there be a difference? Shouldn’t there be a difference working for a Christian employer as opposed to one who does not claim such a status? Should not customers of said business be treated not merely as commodities, but as a people of value?
I am writing this on Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus dying on the Cross. The Apostle Paul puts this day and that event into perspective:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
In other words, he validated every person who had ever lived, was living, and those yet to be born. All sinners, nonetheless! To put it another way, we were valuable enough for him to voluntarily die so that we might “have life and have it to the full.”
Should we not treat others in ways that reflect a similar value? The reality is that our daily encounters are with no ordinary people.
© Jim Musser 2021