Many years ago as a teenager I played some team sports. One day my coach explained to me one of his basic rules of coaching. "You cannot coach all players the same way. [He used specific players as examples.] If I compliment this player, he lets it go to his head. He becomes so proud of himself he will not listen to anything I say. But this player is a different situation. After I compliment him he listens, and then he works his heart out for me. The key is understanding how to encourage each player to do his best."

Regardless of your opinion about his approach to challenging his players, he understood an important truth about people. Individuals are distinctive persons with unique personalities. What motivates or encourages one discourages or distresses another. There are those who observe, "Some are overly sensitive and others are not sensitive enough." To these people, this observation becomes the basis for their interactions.

While the observation is true, it does not explain the reality. We are all different. Nothing is "standard" about us, our experiences, or the way experiences impact our lives. We all want others to see us for who we are. No one chooses to fulfill someone's expectations as a cog in their machine. Jerry and Lynn Jones explained that does not work in marriage. It does not work in other relationships. It does not work among Christians.

A phenomenal truth about God: He sees each of us as individuals. God looks at six billion people on earth, and sees the individual. He forgives the individual. He treats the individual with grace and mercy. He admonishes the individual. He encourages the individual. He listens to the individual. As He interacts in all these ways, He is always concerned about the person, not the precedent.

Jesus was God's perfect representative on earth. Jesus initiated a conversation with a Samaritan divorcee to offer her living water (John 4). He allowed the unthinkable! Jesus let a prostitute wash, dry, anoint, and kiss his feet in someone else's home (Luke 7:36-50). He allowed the unthinkable! Jesus healed a Roman army officer's servant (Matthew 5:-13). He did the unthinkable! Jesus associated with religious and social outcasts, and religious leaders were incensed (Matthew 10:10-13). He did the unthinkable! In each situation, he was concerned about individuals, not about precedents. He saw the person, the need, and the opportunity, and responded.

That is why God is the goal, and we are the goal setters. That is why Jesus is the teacher, and we are the students. We become so concerned about the precedent that we ignore the individual. God does not. Jesus does not.

God knows whose heart seeks His will, and whose heart does not. God knows who is trying as he or she struggles, and who justifies himself or herself in his or her struggles. God does not use the standard human "pass or fail" method of testing. God uses the divine heart standard of testing. Thank You, God, for seeing us as individuals! Thank You for seeing the worst in us and loving us enough to forgive us, if we will let You.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 26 August 2001

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