Most of God’s Chosen Don’t Look the Part
As we march on through Lent, ever closer to the Cross and the Resurrection, we should consider who it is that we trust. Many at the time of Jesus thought that He was a false prophet because He “did not look the part”. Matthew 27: 39-41 sees passersby mocking Jesus and asking Him to free Himself from the Cross if He is the Son of God. It is certainly difficult to look the part of Messiah if you are hanging from a cross. Difficult that is if you misunderstand what God was doing through Jesus.
This is hardly the first time in Scripture that God has chosen as His messengers those who “don’t look the part”. Moses did not look the part of Hebrew leader (the real Moses, not Chuck Heston). He was an Egyptian nobleman and hesitant to take up the mantle of leadership when God called him. Further on down the road David certainly did not look the part. He was a scrawny shepherd boy who was the youngest of Jesse’s sons.
In Jesus’s time the apostles certainly were not chosen by central casting. These were ordinary fishermen and workers, not formally trained in Hebraic law and custom. No one would think this motley crew the leaders of a worldwide movement on behalf of God. Later Paul would also not strike one as looking the part. He was a persecutor of early followers of Jesus and classically trained to uphold the legal traditions of the Hebrews. On top of that, like the Apostle’s he was kind of dumpy looking and was not a great speaker (although a gifted writer).
The point is, that right up to our present time, including all of us, God chooses the least likely to deliver His Good News. It is often the outsider (the Good Samaritan), or the marginalized or those that have a rather sinful track record (St. Augustine), that is chosen to proclaim the Kingdom of God. To look only for those who “look the part” is to miss what God is saying through those He has chosen and what He is saying by whom He has chosen.
What is God Telling Us by His Choices
God is telling us several very important things by those He chooses to call for proclaiming His love for humanity. First, God is telling us that we should look beyond the outer image of those who don’t “look the part”. We too often judge people by the way they dress and look or their station in life. Rather, we should focus on the message that they convey and the need they may have to simply be heard. The Good News can come from anyone, even, and perhaps especially, those who appear on the outside. This is a part of a larger call for all of us to have an extra care and concern for those who appear “the least among us”.
Second, God is telling us that His message is especially for those whom society has forgotten and ignored. God is going out of His way to choose those whom society reviles. This is instructive. Yes, His message is for everyone, but what is usually forgotten is that this includes the “lowest of the low”. By choosing those who don’t look the part God is telling us that His Kingdom includes all of His children. It includes all of humanity. Everyone is invited to God’s table to have an eternal relationship with our Father in Heaven. This is stunningly Good News, and it cuts against just about everything that this world thinks is true.
Finally, it seems clear that by choosing those that do not look the part God is telling us that anyone can be a part of proclaiming God’s good and gracious word. It does not matter what you may have done in the past, or the egregious sins you may have committed. It did not matter to God that Moses murdered someone, or that Saul persecuted the followers of His Son. It did not matter to God that John Newton was a vile slave trader before He called him to a life of penance and inspired him to write Amazing Grace. If these wretches can and did serve the will of God, then surely, we have a useful part to play in the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
If you hear in your head a voice telling you that your past makes you ineligible to proclaim God’s love, then it is not God talking to you, but the other guy. It is devilry plain and simple to think that our past condemns us to a useless future. Every sinner has a future, and every saint has a past as the aphorism goes. The repeated examples of whom God chooses and calls to proclaim drives this home over and over. God sees what matters in people. The question is do we? Do we see the Good News that anyone can proclaim, even if they do not look the part, and can we see this ability in ourselves, even if we do not look the part?
Let us look to the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus. In Jesus we do not have a “conquering” general who vanquishes armies with violence. We have a savior who conquers with the hope of eternal salvation. His “weakness” is actually His strength. His love for His children goes all the way to sacrifice on the Cross. He gave every last measure of Himself and rose again from a shameful death to place within us the faith that saves. This is a victory more complete than any general could ever deliver.
This Lent let us focus on who God has called to proclaim. Let us look past the outer images and what society would have us think about that outer image. Let us look instead at the love they convey, the hope they offer and the Good News they deliver. In short, let us look toward those who may not look the part, as Jesus did not.
Then let us look for those same qualities in ourselves as well. Let us be confident enough in our salvation and our eternal relationship with God to trust that we too can proclaim God’s message in thought, word, and deed right here, right now. Lent is a time of return to God, a time of renewal of our commitment to respond with energy to His gifts of grace upon grace. Let us not be deterred from embracing God’s message from those who may not look the part and let us not be deterred from proclaiming it because we did not come out of central casting.
Praise Be to God