The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me." Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." -- John 1:43-51 (NIV)
When Jesus first met Nathanael, Nathanael was less than impressed. In fact, he made a derogatory comment in verse 46: "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"
Jesus could have been hurt, and he could have taken offence. He didn't, however. He rose above it, and saw the good in Nathanael. He saw the potential—the leader, the man with a good and sincere heart.
Jesus said of Nathanael, "Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit." In verse 47, Jesus could see Nathanael's true heart whereas someone less gracious would have seen rebellion. Jesus saw someone with an honest heart, who didn't care what people thought. Jesus raised him up to be a great leader.
Do I judge people too quickly? Do I dismiss people because they say something insensitive, or they don't kowtow to me?
The first time I came to church the sermon was amazing. The London church in the early 80's was blessed to have one of the best preachers around, James Lloyd. He spoke the first sermon I had ever heard in my life, and it had an impact on my heart. When James (Mister Personality) came up to me in the fellowship to ask me if I liked the sermon, I said no, I didn't. He had started with a joke, which I thought was very corny. James was so kind and so respectful toward me. The disciples in London accepted this arrogant, opinionated, French girl, and treated me with love.
I went home that day and bought a Bible, which I proceeded to read voraciously for the next two months. I was baptized eight weeks after visiting church for the first time. My conversion was a radical one. I went from being a sinful, immoral, rebellious atheist—to deciding I was going on a mission team to the developing world. What if James and the disciples had been offended by my comments? What if they had dismissed me as unopen? In fact, I was very open.
I pray I can be like Jesus as I reach out to people. The most sinful or arrogant may be the most open. They may just be more honest than the ones who smile and say all the right things. Jesus could see through a person's words and look right into their heart. He had noticed Nathanael ("I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you" verse 48), and turned him into a great leader. Let me be Christ-like in the way I treat people!
In the same way, when disciples in the church say insensitive things, or make what sounds like critical comments—they may actually have a pure heart behind it and want the best for the church. They may need help with how they say things (God knows I do sometimes!), but they may actually have the best interest of the church at heart. I would rather deal with an honest person who needs help with their words, than a deceitful one who smiles but doesn't care.
The same goes in raising children. The ones we call "a handful" may be the most honest and open kids. The ones who acquiesce too easily may be hiding stuff from us, and from themselves. Let us look beyond words and appearances, and look into the heart.