Imagine yourself in a big city in a crowd of people. What it would be like to see all the people in the crowd like Jesus does — an anonymous crowd with old ones and young one, fat ones and thin ones, attractive ones and ugly ones—think what it would be like to love them. If our faith is true, if there is a God, and if God loves, he loves each one of those. Try to see them as loved. And then try to see them, these faces, as loved by you. What would it be like to love these people, to love these faces — the lovable faces, the kind faces, gentle compassionate faces? That’s not so hard. But there are lots of other faces — disagreeable faces, frightening faces, frightened faces, cruel faces, closed faces. …they are all peculiar treasures. In Exodus, God said to Israel, “You shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” God meant it for all of us.
~Frederick Buechner from The Remarkable Ordinary
It doesn’t take long for us to be overwhelmed by humanity when we visit our family in Tokyo. The airport is a shock of weaving lines of weary people and crying children, the trains are packed with people standing like sardines for an hour or more on their commute, the stations are a sea of bobbing heads flowing out onto the streets where the cross walks become a mass hive of activity whenever the light changes.
Yet we’ve been struck by the effort some locals make to help us foreigners who look lost, or who simply look different. There is outreach at times that is spontaneous, genuine and completely unexpected. Those are easy faces to love and we do. What is much much harder to is love those hundreds of thousands who pass by us on their way to work, to shop, to return home. How can I even begin to have the capacity?
What greeted Jesus as he entered the city in that final week was not friendly faces. He loved them all any way, every single one of them peculiar treasures to him, forgiven and redeemed.
I realize I’m not very friendly too much of the time. Yet he still loves me too, flaws and all, as his redeeming grace is meant for one such as me. Because of his love, I can become the real thing, not just a reflection of what I think I should be.