Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't judge Caesar by his pajamas

What would you think if a man addressed your church wearing red and blue striped pajamas?  Would it make any difference if they were too short and you could easily see that he was wearing tall black socks with his white shoes?

I spent this past weekend with some of the churches in Chiure and our friend Pinto introduced me to his uncle Caesar.  This man has had a big influence on Pinto's life.  He has faithfully led another church in that area for many years.  Caesar has taught my friend a lot about church leadership, the importance of prayer and fasting, and how to serve a congregation. So, when  Caesar decided to go with us to worship with the church in Nacivare, I was happy to have him along.

Our friends here in Mozambique are only a couple decades removed from a brutal war, so standards for dress are pretty different.  Most of the clothing in this part of the country comes in bales from the United States or Europe. On a number of occasions I have struggled to keep a straight face while talking to a chief, or King, or King of Kings who looks like he happens to be wearing my grandmother's bathrobe. So, while I am used to a different kind of dress code, I still have to admit that seeing Caesar exhort the body of Christ to take their faith seriously while wearing striped pajamas did make me chuckle.

It made me think of one of my favorite stories in the life of David.  Saul has proven to be a failure as a king and God instructs Samuel to go to the town of Bethlehem to anoint a new one.  Upon arrival he tells Jesse to call his sons together.

As I imagine the story, the firstborn Eliab is a tall young man, with bulging biceps who can easily be pictured wielding a sword.  And Samuel thinks to himself, "Ah, surely this is the one."   But God tells him, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV).

Next comes Abinadab, I see him as the family scholar.  He's wearing spectacles and carrying some parchments and scrolls under one arm.  He has ink-stained fingers and seems mildly annoyed that his study time has been interrupted.  Samuel wonders if maybe this one's intelligence might not help Israel outwit the Philistines.  But, God does not choose Abinadab.

Then comes Shammah, and I picture him as a gregarious people person.  He greets Samuel warmly, asks after Samuel's family and makes some appropriate comments about the weather.  Samuel can imagine him kissing babies and working the political machine much better than poor old Saul.  But, God does not choose Shammah.

Jesse parades seven more sons before the prophet and not one of them is chosen. Samuel awkwardly asks if, by chance, Jesse doesn't happen to have any other sons.  So, the shepherd boy David is found and brought into the house.  And when he comes in the room, the Lord tells Samuel, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one" (1 Samuel 16:12 NIV).

So, as a listened to Caesar, I squinted a bit and tried to look past the striped pajamas.  And I wondered, what does God see when he looks at Caesar's heart?

Grace and Peace,


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