They Don’t Look Like Criminals​

​I have been watching on the news for details on a criminal case. The man is accused of murdering three people in cold blood. When I first saw the man arrested on TV he looked a little rough around the edges; he was not clean cut. When I first saw him during a court hearing I could hardly believe it was the same guy. Here he was clean shaven and dressed in a nice suit. He looked so different from the man they arrested. I made mention to my husband and having been in law enforcement he said that was so the jury couldn’t make judgments according to his dress or demeanor. He asked me to think about when I saw him arrested. He said you probably already had him convicted just by the way he looked. I have thought about others as well that I had seen on the news that was being charged with a crime. I can remember a young man that had looked and dressed like he was not mentally well. If I remember correctly they wanted him to change his hair coloring from bright orangey red to his normal color, but he refused. I went back into the computer news and looked and he has appeared in court with his normal hair coloring and appearing very normal. Then there are those I have noticed that have been arrested in three piece suits looking very prim and proper. I thought now surely they are not guilty. These were very normal people who looked like they had it all together how could they have committed such crimes? Then the thought comes, “they don’t look like criminals.” 
Now what is this all about? It doesn’t matter how we look; what matters is what’s in the heart of someone. I can look like I have it all together and be on top of everything, but my heart may be way out of joint. I am reminded you cannot judge a book by its cover; nor can you judge a man by his dress or demeanor. 
I have learned this so many times from the church. I see someone in church and think just by looking at them they have it all together and their faith must really be strong. Then something happens and I get a glimpse into their heart and I realize they are just like me struggling to get through this world. 
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  How many times have I failed to look at the heart? How many times have I judged someone based on their clothes, looks, demeanor or how many tattoos they have? How many times have I judged a group of people because they are different from me? I don’t like their ideas or their thought process or where they work or whatever and I have dismissed them from my life.
We had a program at church once called the Bridge. We served a free meal, gave clothes when necessary and those in need could get groceries. While their orders were being filled we had a contemporary praise worship service. Many of these folks stayed for the worship service. Over the years we would eat with all the folks that came, needy or not. If I got anything out of serving at the Bridge it’s this: some of your best friends can come from places you have never been. Some of your best friends can come from experiences shared with you; things you never have experienced or hope too. I learned some of these people have the biggest and most caring hearts. The ones that came for a free meal or some clothes or groceries reached out in love to those who were serving them. They taught me more about love and compassion and gave me insight. When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” “Then go feed my sheep.” Jesus calls us to love. We are to love no matter what they look like on the outside, no matter what their circumstances are and no matter where they live.
Mark 6:34 reminds us, “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”  It’s easy to judge those who murder others. It’s easy to hate them for taking innocent lives. It’s easy to ignore those who are different, who come from different backgrounds or different social classes. It’s easy to ignore those who have different ideas from ours. It’s easy to ignore those who look different. 
 But, what if instead we showed a little compassion? We have no idea what their lives have been like. We have no idea if anyone at anytime has talked to them about Christ. Maybe they have been like sheep without a shepherd. I am not suggesting we disregard what they did or go lenient on them. But, what if we prayed for them? What if while in prison we ask God to send someone that could share His love with them? “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?…Matthew 25:35-37 You know the verse Christ says when you did it to them you were doing it to me. 
I think it’s time for me to stopping judging people by their outside appearance and begin looking at the heart. It’s the heart that matters. It’s time I take a minute and pray for those who are in prison; it’s time for me to show a little compassion. It’s time for me to get to know people before I judge them. Compassion means concern. Maybe I should be a little better about showing compassion when I come across someone who is different from me or living in difficult circumstances or even different circumstances. 
The two men who are being held for murder; what would have happened if years before someone might have showed compassion toward them? What if years ago someone led them to a Savior who could lead them and help them not go astray? What if somewhere along their lives someone shepherded them and tended to their needs? 
Finally God calls us to be disciples to His people. He doesn’t say we are to be disciples to those we get along with or those we like, or those who have the same thought processes, or those who are in the same social classes or (here you put in your thoughts), but He calls us to be disciples to the world; to everyone. 
I have learned some of the biggest people with the biggest hearts are the ones that are often outside of my comfort zone. Yet, what a blessing I would have missed if I had passed them by. 
I ask you to go with me down this path of learning to not judge people by their looks, but to reach out and touch the lives of those who we are uncomfortable with, even if they are in prison, or on the other side of the line we’ve drawn. If we truly want to follow God then we will follow God’s advice and not look at outside appearance but at their heart. We can only know their heart if we reach out to them; even if we only reach out in prayer for them. 
Dear God: I am so sorry that I have been judgmental too many times. I have often looked at someone’s appearance or their demeanor and ignored them. Forgive me for dismissing those from my life that has a different opinion about life or faith. Thank you for those friends who have taught me what true compassion is all about. Thank you for the love you have given me through those folks who at one time were out of my comfort zone. As I listen to the news help me not to judge, but to offer up a prayer that at some time someone will come and introduce You to them. Remind me you are a God of compassion and if I want to follow Your ways then I need to be more compassionate. As we head into the Holidays help me not to be judgmental, but to show compassion. Thank you Jesus for teaching me and guiding my life in those areas I often ignore. Take my life and use it as you see fit. Amen

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