It has been said that we only get one chance to make a good impression. After that people have made up their mind about what they think of us. We have a tendency to label people by mere appearances. We pass judgement on them without getting to know them and really finding out who they are and what they are all about. Teenagers commit suicide because their classmates have negatively labeled them. Adults hold back and do not work to their potential because no one believes in them. The following story gives an example of judgment being passed because someone looks different.
Joe answered the ringing phone. It was the basketball coach from the school where his fifteen-year-old son, Seth, attended. After greetings the coach asked Joe if he knew Seth had enrolled in the eighth grade basketball program. “No,” Joe replied, “I did not know that.” Seth is a good athlete. His dad has taught him to golf, play basketball, and softball. But Seth is different from other children. He has Down’s Syndrome. Joe expected that the coach’s next words would be that Seth could not play on the eighth grade ball team because of his disability. He figured the coach would think it would not be fair to the other children to have a child with a disability on the team. To Joe’s surprise the next words out of the coach’s mouth were, “We want Seth on the team.” He went on to say that the teammates had talked it over and they were all in agreement. Of course, Joe gave his permission for Seth to play.
The night of the first game found Seth’s parents, Joe and Marla, sitting in the bleachers with great anticipation. Marla was fretting that her son would be looked down on if he did not play well, that other parents would blame him if the team lost the game, and that his teammates would be sorry they agreed for him to play. She knew he could play ball, but what if he goofed up this time? The audience had noticed that Seth was different. It is obvious that he has Down’s Syndrome, but he is as tall as his classmates, very cute, and has a great sense of humor which shows in everything he does. Seth was put into the game right away. Some of the parents thought it was great that the coach was giving a child with a disability a chance, but others, who think everything is about winning, were thinking the coach was crazy.
It didn’t take long for Seth to show that he knew what he was doing. He proved his expertise in blocking right away, staying right on his opponents. Then his team was dribbling the ball down the court. One teammate passed the ball to another, and he passed it back to him. Again, the same play took place. And then it happened. One of the teammates passed the ball to Seth. Many in the audience gasped. What was that player thinking? The game was too important to the boys to throw it away. The team was in position to make the point. What would Seth do with the ball? Seth moved in for the basket and threw the ball. The audience froze. Marla and Joe held their breath. For a moment everything was in slow motion as the ball went flying through the air. To most of the people’s surprise, the basketball went into the net. What happened next was spontaneous by everyone present. The audience, both the home team and their opponents, stood and cheered. Of course, Marla cried. The audience had accepted her son. Seth looked around at the audience as if to say, “Didn’t you know I could do it?” But he loved the attention and enjoyed the moment.
You see, Seth had to prove himself. The first impression the people in the audience had of him was that he would not be an asset to the team and probably would be a liability.
Seth’s coach and teammates’ attitude toward him can teach us all a lesson. They knew he was different, yet they were willing to give him a chance. They knew he responded a little slower than they did, but that he could play ball. Once a new person was practicing with them, and would not throw the ball to Seth. The regular players, the “jocks” on the team, quickly came to Seth’s rescue. “Pass the ball to Seth,” they kept yelling, “pass the ball to Seth. They were determined for Seth not to be left out.
As Christians we should be the ones to see that others are not left out. We should be very careful about making quick judgements. Many people with disabilities are talented and creative. Others, who we label as nerds at first impression, may be geniuses. A person who looks old on the outside may still have a young mind and have much to offer. Just because a person does not wear name brand clothing, does not mean he or she does not have the money to purchase them. The color of a person’s skin, or what language they speak, does not tell us who they really are. Jesus makes this statement in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
The book of Romans gives much information about passing judgement. Although in Romans it is not talking about passing judgement by mere appearances. It deals with passing judgment because someone is different from you in something they believe. The Jews and Gentiles had come from different backgrounds and had different beliefs concerning various customs. “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables” (Romans 14:2). To sum it up, the Scripture tells us: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:7).
Christians, let’s set the pace for being loving and gentle toward everyone. Let’s get to know people and look for the good in them. Let’s give everyone we meet a chance to be their very best, even if they are different from us. Everyone is unique in his own way. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone is precious to God and should be precious to us. Let’s realize that it is not always about winning, but about how we play the game. What we sometimes consider weakness in an individual may be considered as strength to God. God is the one who created each of us just the way we are. God uses our weaknesses for His glory. He says, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
(Seth is the author’s grandson).
By Pam Stewart
Pam and her husband, Bill, serve with the Bear Valley Bible Institue of Denver. Pam is an instructor in the Women’s Program. Bill is the director of development as well as an intructor. The couple can often be found at lectureships and at meetings sharing about BVBID. Pam is the author of Evangelistic Women, a book designed to help women discover in what ministry they can best serve the kingdom (for information on how to order, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org).