This morning I was rummaging through my bundle of bananas, looking for just the right one. I admit, I don’t like bananas that have blackened bruises all over them or are overly ripened (aka…mushy). I would actually prefer to buy a bundle of bananas that are a little green, and sacrifice a little nutrients (the greener they are the less time they were allowed to ripen on the tree and have less nutrients), in order to have a batch that lasts longer. So, what does this have to do with anything at all? I promise you that my little spiel has a point to it. So please hang in there.
After selecting a banana, I carried it off to work for a mid morning snack. I was slightly disappointed because I couldn’t find a banana without blackened spots and bruises on it. They had ripened quite fast it seemed, and kind of looked like someone used them for bowling. Okay, that may be an exaggeration. Anyways, my options were limited. So I just grabbed one and headed off for the day. When it came time to eat my delicious banana, I peeled back the skin, expecting to see bruised spots that I’d have to cut off. But, to my surprise, it was pretty near the perfect banana. As I took the first bite, an epiphany dawned in my mind. And now, the point of me telling you all of this.
When it comes to picking fruits and vegetables, people are attracted to those without deformities, bruises, nicks, and the like. Tons upon tons of produce gets wasted every week from grocery stores discarding the non-selected items. Meanwhile, millions are starving around the world. It makes me feel so incredibly petty to be so selective about food when so many are without any at all. It’s definitely a “first-world” problem to have to choose just the right fruit or vegetable. Then conviction sets in and I’m just happy to have a banana in the first place. But that’s not the point of my story. I just can’t help going off on sidebars sometimes.
The real purpose behind me sharing my banana story with you is to relate how we look at produce, to how we look at people. There is no difference. Most of us have spent countless days searching for just the right one. We have our ideas of what we want. They can’t be under-ripened or over-ripened (whatever that means for you personally). So many people out over looked or not ‘selected’ for friendships or other relationships, simply because they are too bruised by life. They’re too small, too big, slightly odd shaped, not the right shade of color, too soft, or whatever the reason. So many people spend so much money on making themselves look just right. They want that glossy firm exterior that everyone reaches for.
Two weeks ago I cut into what I thought was a pristine apple. To my dismay, it had a giant rotten spot inside of it. There’s only one place for apples like that…the garbage. You can’t eat around it and you can’t feed it to any animals. The fruit is spoiled. People can be a lot like my banana from today, or my apple from two weeks ago. There are a lot of people who carry a lot of bruises, and have been beaten up by life, but underneath the surface, they are beautiful and exactly what you want. There are also a lot of people who look gorgeous and spotless on the surface, but they are simple rotted out in their core.
Let’s get real honest for second. No matter how hard we try, none of us would be good enough to be selected if we were produce at our local grocery store. All of us are imperfect. All of us have blemishes. Some of us carry those on the outside, while others do their absolute best to conceal them. All of us are either the banana or we are the apple.
During His time on Earth, Jesus confronted the ‘apples’ of His day. In a conversation with the ‘elite’ and ‘perfect’ of the first century, Jesus said this:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV)
Nothing gets by the One who created all of us. He sees past the beautiful exterior to what is really below the surface. We can’t approach Jesus with a facade. It won’t fool Him like it fools others. And eventually people see through us too. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to cover up flaws and look like we have it all together. But there is no disguise good enough. Nor should we want one.
In a conversation with the Prophet Samuel, who was trying to select a leader for the nation of Israel, God told him, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Our core is what matters. Our blemishes and bruises don’t define us in eyes of God and they shouldn’t determine how we’re viewed by others either.
In John chapter 4, Jesus meets with a young woman from Samaria. She would be the typical discarded person. She had been married five times, was now living with someone who she wasn’t married to, full of shame, and certainly judges by society. That didn’t stop Jesus. In fact, those are the people that were drawn to Him most. In the conversation Jesus gave her a great promise.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14 (ESV)
His invitation of eternal life, of eternal love, to be embraced by God in the flesh, was open to everyone. You don’t have to be polished up to be with Jesus. The lady at the well was anything but refined and popular. In fact, most of the people He spent His time with her very unpolished individuals.
Jesus looks at our greatest needs: love, hope, and a new heart, and He openly offers them all to us free of charge. Jesus doesn’t look at us with His eyes, He looks at us with His Spirit. That’s because, the person we really are has nothing to do with how we look. That’s why race, and skin color, hair color, height, weight, or any other physical representation does not define anyone. Yet humanity loves to group others based on what they look like. How unfair and inaccurate. Unfortunately, it’s easier to categorize people on appearance, because that way, you don’t have to get to know them. And that’s why so many, spend so much effort on the outside, and neglect the inside. Even the nicest car in the world is worthless if you disregard the care of it’s engine. We have to start with our heart and our mind, which can only be made new and whole by Jesus.
Jesus knows everything about us. And nothing stops Him from wanting to spend unlimited amounts of time with each and everyone of us. He will welcome anyone, no matter how bruised and ‘imperfect’ they are. He is not overlooking you or moving you aside to grab another. His affection is for you. And because Jesus loves us that way, we should love others just the same.
God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’