-Will Ballard, contributing writer
This semester, I’ve been studying abroad in London. I remember an instance recently where Tucker Ward and I were joking over Facebook about something from one of his computer science classes when all of the sudden he sent me, “Keep the Gospel in mind.” I felt sucker-punched. Here I am tooling around the European continent without a care in the world and those five words sent me crashing back to the ground. “Keep the Gospel in mind.” What am I doing right now to honor God, to serve Him? I thought about it: pretty much nothing.
When I signed up to go on this trip, I didn’t really know any of the 19 other students that would be traveling with me. That wasn’t really a huge concern; I figured I’d find a few cool people to hang out with and that would be that. Two months later I can confidently say that plan didn’t work out for me, and I’ve never been happier to be completely, utterly wrong.
The old Will Ballard way of picking friends was mostly based on casual observation and external traits. I didn’t give people a chance to become something other than their stereotype. One of my hopes for the trip is that I will actually be a friend to everybody else, which sounds really sappy, I know, but it’s a legitimate concern. How do I convince myself to change how I think about other people?
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). Paul has some things to say to the Romans when it comes to judging one another; his specific example is of those that judge one another based on the strength of their faith. But his reasoning behind not judging one another carries across a wide range of situations, not just the one instance he talks about.
“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).
So, it really doesn’t matter what I think about somebody, because my judgment isn’t worth anything. It’s God’s judgment that will ultimately matter. In fact, most of the time my judgment is worse than worthless—it’s ultimately hypocritical (Matthew 7:1-5).
It’s pretty clear to me that my old way of thinking about other humans is un-biblical. So what do I do to fix that? How do I completely change my mindset from a “this person is helpful/nice to me” mindset to a “this person is part of the kingdom of God” mindset?
Philippians 2:1-11, Galatians 6:1-5, and 1 John 4:7-21 all have a lot to say about the way Christians should treat one another. Here, though, I quote from Ephesians 2:19-22: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
All of us are a part of the structure of the church of God. All of us are citizens of His new holy Kingdom. All of us are sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. So what if I loved everybody the same way I loved my little sister? What if I loved in a completely selfless and honest way?
That’s what I’ve been told to tell you. Going on this trip completely changed my perspective on people and how to befriend them and how to love them. I need to love them as if they’re my brother or sister, not as if they’re somebody that has to prove their worth first. That’s just the first of many things God has taught me on this trip, but you’ll have to excuse me for now—I have two brothers and seventeen sisters to go explore London with.