I went to a fast-food joint earlier this week, and the young lady in front of me was, well, different. Her hair was a shade of cotton candy pink that I’m pretty sure wasn’t her natural hair color. She had her body pierced in places that aren’t yet considered mainstream, and her clothes weren’t what you see in Sunday School every week—but they completed her image.
As it turned out, she and her friend sat at a table near mine, and I could hear their conversation—they weren’t being discreet. I’m not sure what I expected them to talk about, but I suppose I thought it might have something to do with the next punk rock concert or where the best party was this weekend. Most of my friends don’t have pink hair or piercings in random body parts, so I wasn’t sure what to expect—maybe I’d get the latest scoop on Birmingham’s devil worship hot spots? I couldn’t wait.
You’d probably never guess, so I’ll go ahead and spill it: They talked about their jobs, their friends, a couple of problems they were having, and something about her Dad.
In other words, it was pretty boring stuff, not nearly as exciting as I’d hoped.
It was just like what I talk about with friends when we go to lunch. Probably the same with you and your friends.
Not long after I figured out she might not be a devil-worshiper I got bored with my eavesdropping.
It’s pretty sad. The tempting thing to do is to make snap judgments about people, to put them in neat little boxes that are well-defined and clearly labeled. You look like this, so you must do that. You’re different from me, so I keep you at a distance. Stereotypes come easily.
Pink hair and body piercings? Parties, drugs, alcohol, and who knows what else.
Clean-cut, tailored suit, polished shoes? Respectable, law-abiding, church-going. Good guy.
Except it’s not so simple.
Truth is, we’re not so different from one another. I’ve done short-term mission work on the continents of Asia, South America, Australia, and Africa, and some of the cultural differences are significant—we look different, eat different food, wear different clothes.
But if you look beneath the culture, what you find is that they’re a lot like us, or maybe, we’re a lot like them. They want their kids to be healthy and to get a good education, and they worry about them. They want their marriages to be stronger. They’re concerned about their aging parents. They fret over their economic situation and disapprove of the government. They laugh and cry and eat and sleep.
But going a little deeper, the girl with pink hair and loud clothes and the guy with the clean-cut hair and suit and tie, as well as the Asian, the African, and the American all have the same problem.
We’re badly flawed, and deep down we know it. Because of what we’ve done, our relationship with God isn’t what it ought to be, and that’s caused us to struggle in other areas as well—our jobs, our marriages, our friendships, everything.
And we all have the same hope, no matter our past, no matter how bad. That hope is Jesus Christ, the one who came to bring us back to the Father. To restore us to wholeness. To give us life.
Instead of judging people by their clothing choices or body art, we ought to see them for what they are and what we are: people created in God’s image who have marred that image by the choices we’ve made.
And people for whom God gave everything to get us back. That, in essence, is the story of the Bible. That is the good news.
I doubt God even noticed that her hair was pink.