See People as People

From Paul Tripp Ministries

Several weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks, I had a heart-wrenching conversation with a manager of one of the restaurants in the World Trade Centers.

He told me, “I can’t get over the grief that I never saw the 250 people who worked for me as people. They were waiters, chefs, busboys, hosts, event planners—but they weren’t people to me. And over the last three weeks, I’ve gone to funeral after funeral and sat with their moms and dads, husbands and wives, and children and heard the stories of their lives. Now they are people to me, but now they’re gone.”

He wept as he told me that story. I wept as I listened. It’s hard not to get emotional thinking back to that story today, 22 years later.

And it’s hard not to feel guilt. I think this attitude is typical of many of us. I know it’s true for me. I often don’t see people as people.

It’s the barista whose job it is to create my perfect coffee order. It’s the supermarket assistant who is there to speed up my process on the self-checkout scanner. It’s the waiter who exists to get me my delicious meal without any delays or mistakes.

Do you see people as people? Or are they functions to assist you in creating a day that is as stress-free and enjoyable as possible?

If you want to shine as a light in this world, pray that God will give you the eyes to see people as people. Slow down, look into their eyes, and remember that this is a human being created in the image of God, who has a heart, an eternal destiny, a story, a desire to be loved, with legitimate fears and concerns, and hopes and dreams.

Then, adjust your schedule or make sacrifices to bump into these people more frequently. That could mean going to the same place at the same time so you can interact with the same person on their regular shift pattern. Maybe that means shopping differently to build relationships with people who live or work in your neighborhood.

Sadly, too many of us are chasing an ever-growing to-do list as we try to build a kingdom of created delights, which causes us to rush past people, or worse, use them to make life as efficient, convenient, and pleasurable as possible.

Lastly, ask questions. Simple questions are a great starting point: How are you doing today? How has your week been? What do you have going on this weekend? What are you most excited about? How are your kids doing in school?

I was at a restaurant once, and the man dining with me said to the waiter, “We’re a group of people who like to pray before we eat. Is there anything we can pray for you?” The waiter was taken off guard, stumbled, and said, “Uh, I don’t think I really need anything right now.”

But then he came back five minutes later. “Actually, I think I could use your prayer. I just found out my girlfriend is pregnant, and I’m terrified. I have no idea how to be a father. Would you pray for me?”

What a fantastic opportunity! And it was so simple. My friend saw the waiter as a person, not a function, and he asked a simple question.

Then, go back again and again to develop a relationship and wait for the opportunities that God gives you as a result.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:36–38).

A Prayer for Today: God, would you help me to see people as people and not as cogs in the machine of my day to make my life more comfortable and easy? Would you provide me with opportunities to engage with the people you have placed in my life and when those opportunities arise, would you give me the courage to lean in and ask questions of them? Would you help to make my heart sensitive and caring to others that you might use me in whatever way you want. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

God bless,

Paul David Tripp

Discussion Prompt for Children

Why do you think it’s important for us to see every person as important and valuable to God no matter who they are? Who are the people in your life that you can see as people?

Reflection Questions

1. What was your initial reaction when I asked if you see people as people or as functions to assist you in creating a day that is as stress-free and enjoyable as possible? In what ways have you been guilty of seeing others around you as simply variables in your life for your own well-being instead of real human beings?

2. Who are the people you’d consider building relationships with differently as you think through the individuals who live or work in your neighborhood? How could your perspective shift from rushing past people or even using them toward seeing them as God’s image bearers in need of the gospel?

3. How can you be more intentional to ask simple but good questions toward those God brings into your life on a regular basis? Take a moment to think through who you regularly come across in your weekly or monthly schedule and ask God to provide you with opportunities to ask those people questions about their life the next time you see them. And then when God provides those divine appointments, ask him to give you the courage to move forward and engage.

See People as People

New Hope Presbyterian Church Bridgeton, NJ

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