A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

A Fair Hearing

August 31st, 2006

It was fall of 1993. We had lived here only a couple months and were still finding our way around the valley. One late afternoon we discovered a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Mesa and had dinner there.

When we were finished I went up to the counter to pay the check. After the cashier handed me my receipt, I turned around. Standing in front of me was a huge man. At least 6’5″ tall and every bit of 280 pounds. He was scary big. He looked mean, like a bulldog in a bad mood. His hair was brown and long, pulled back and held in place by a red bandana. He had a mustache goatee combination that made Fu Manchu look like a pre-pubescent school boy. Over his black sleeveless t-shirt he wore a black leather vest with Harley Davidson patches on it. His arms were tattooed. Some guys have muscles like guns. This guy had missiles with elbows.

I started to step around him when he held up his hand like a stop sign. I’m thinking, oh no, did I sit in his favorite booth? Did I take his parking spot?

In a brass knuckle voice he said, “My little girl said she saw you prayin’ before you ate.”

Great. Big Bad Biker Dude’s little girl saw me praying.

Looking at this guy who could snap me in half like a fortune cookie, I’m wondering how his little girl feels about prayer?

I’m hoping she’s in favor of it.

“Uh…yeah…that was me.”

“Well, I have to tell you that I think…that’s great. We pray, too. Hey, do you have a church home? Because if you don’t we’ve got a good one and you’re welcome to come visit anytime.”

He gave me the cross streets of his church, shook my hand and said, “God bless. Good to meet you.” Watching him drive away I couldn’t help but think he was the perfect man for the church outreach committee. Who could say no to his invitations?

I do it. You do it. We all do it. We judge people. We judge people by their appearance or their behavior. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but the truth is most of us are very shallow readers. It’s easier to size people up by what we see or what we hear or what we think we know than it is to take the time to get know people for who they really are.

We do the same thing to God. We size Him up by what we see or what we hear or what we think we know. Because it’s easier than taking the time to get to know Him for who He really is.

For some of us, God is a perfectionist drill sergeant. For others He is an impossible to please task master. For some of us He is a divine policeman, waiting for us to make a mistake so He can bust us down and make us pay. To some of us He is an indifferent, uncaring being; distant and even detached from everything that concerns us.

We also tend to judge God by our experiences. Some of us grew up in homes where our parents shoved God down our throats and when we got old enough to shove back, we pushed God out. Some of us don’t want anything to do with God because we feel like He abandoned us by not answering our prayers the way we hoped.

Some of us judge God by our church experiences. Maybe we’ve been in places where they cared more about getting in our wallet than caring about our soul. Maybe we’ve been hurt physically or emotionally by someone professing to be a Christian.

There’s no denying the damage done by fallen people in a fallen world. We do some pretty fair damage ourselves at times. But sooner or later we need to extend God the same courtesy we desire for ourselves; the chance to define who we are by our own terms.

While the opinions of others can be valuable, no one can describe you better than you. No one can communicate your heart, your convictions, your passions and your dreams better than you. And in the end, whether people like you or not, agree with you or not, or believe you or not, isn’t there a deep gratification that comes from having been given a full hearing?

Sometime soon give a thought to giving God the opportunity to be fully heard. Set aside what your mother thinks. Turn off the slick televangelist with the slicker hair. Put your bad memories and your bias in time-out. Clear the stage of everything you’ve been tripping over or have been using as a prop to support your arguments and your excuses.

Then grab a Bible and read the words of Jesus.

And as you do, just keep this question in front of you:

How does Jesus describe Jesus?

In the end, whether you agree with Him or not, whether you believe Him or not, you will have extended Jesus the same courtesy you desire for yourself; the right to define Himself by His own terms. That’s being intellectually and relationally fair.

In the same way that people would be surprised to learn new things about you when they give you a full hearing, you might be surprised to learn a few new things about Jesus. That He came to seek and save you. That He’s with you for the long haul. That He loves and forgives you no matter what you’ve done. That He was making incredible plans for you before the foundations of the world. That He came to give you life. And an abundant life at that. And that’s just the short list.

Oh, and there’s that one about Jesus being “a friend of sinners.”

That’s my favorite.

“And the Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax-collectors and the sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:30-32