Keith Wishum: What do you see?
Imagine yourself at a baseball game where the visiting team has a unique outfielder named Dexter. He has only one hand, but plays exceptionally well. Later, you ask a friend who was also at the game, “What did you think of Dexter?”
“Which one was he?” your friend asks.
How would you reply? You could identify him by his number. You might point out the great catch he made. But, what are you really most likely to say?
“He was the one-handed outfielder,” is the probable answer.
Let’s face it; we tend to notice the negative.
We rarely go home and talk about all the people we met during the day who were polite. We don’t say to our spouses at dinner, “I counted 652 cars on the road this morning and everyone drove just like he should.” When people act as they should, we often don’t notice. But if someone acts badly, we focus on it. We may dwell on it until it makes us miserable.
Yet, critical people are never happy people. The apostle Paul discovered the secret of being happy regardless of his situation. One facet of his secret was that he always saw good in people even when there was much bad.
Notice how he talks to and about his fellow Christians in Philippi. Read what he wrote to them in Philippians 1:3-6. He thanks God for them. They bring him joy. He has confidence in them. Is that because they are such a good group — a model church?
Hardly! The church in Philippi was plagued with people who were selfish and contrary. Paul had to urge them (chapter 2) to drop their selfish ambitions and to be considerate of others. In addition, there were some who worked against Paul and others trying to lead Christians into legalism (see 3:1-2, 18-19). Church members were fighting with each other. (4:2)
Paul could have complained about all those who wouldn’t do right. He could have fumed about the weaknesses of the church. He could have been frustrated, thinking that his efforts with them had failed. He could have been miserable.
Instead, Paul thanked God for the good he saw in those people. He expressed confidence that they would increasingly become even better. He displays that same outlook in almost all of his letters. By seeing good in people, Paul discovered joy.
What do you see?
Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.