He was an older man…

slim in build with a kind face. I had never met him before, perhaps I will some day, but his face was on a picture in front of the cross and between the candied wheat and sweet breads on the table.

He was gone from us for now and we were praying for him 40 days after his death. We Orthodox pray even for those who are departed because in a very special way they’re still with us and we are with them. The Church, the life of Christ, it’s all bigger than even a cemetery. And as I was praying I was thinking.

This is the kind of person my government and culture tells me I need to be careful for, the kind of person who, with his rumpled suit and head gear, would be stared at in the airport. Amazing how the forces around us help us decide who people may be.

Yet in truth he was just a grandpa, a father, and man who lived in the area of Nazareth. He was a soul, too, a being made in the image of God. A person with children and a house and friends and maybe some kind of hobby when the work was done. His family was just a few rows back from where we were praying, the kind of folks you’d like to have next door.

Jesus tells us to “judge not lest we be judged…” and more than a few people trying to justify their own behavior fling that verse (perhaps the only one they know from the Scriptures) into Christian faces. There’s more to it, though, than that.

I think it’s about having wisdom, the kind of wisdom that looks below the surface and tries to make sense of the other not just from the superficial but from the true heart and soul. It’s also about withholding a final opinion on anyone based solely on how they immediately present themselves to us. It’s the knowledge that we are all fallible humans in a process called life.

The image may say “Man from Palestine wearing Arab clothing” with all that my culture tells me about what that means. The truth is he’s grandpa Shafik from Nazareth and one day I hope to meet him in heaven.

Lord always give me the eyes to see things this way.

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