Still a person

“That is disgusting. Look at the state of that.”

The two student boys stared out the window as the man dressed in a short skirt and a blonde wig walked past the coffee shop windows on the other side of the road.

“That shouldn’t be allowed… get out of my city!”

Now they were sniggering as their mouths gushed waterfalls of cruel and foul descriptions of the stranger passing by, whilst they sat safe behind the cafe’s glass, as if their words were being typed on a cowardly keyboard and the shop windows were the laptop screen of anonymity. 

He didn’t know these two lads were talking about him of course, speaking such judgemental hate over him as he briskly paced his way along the street, head bent down, hands clutching at strands of the blonde wig by his cheek bones, skinny legs moving fast over the flag-stones, no eye-contact, no sense of confidence about him.

“Still a person though.”

I hadn’t had time to think before the words had slipped out my mouth and my eyes had locked onto the now wide-open eyes of the boy sat next to me on the cosily-close neighbouring table.

He was stunned. He faltered in his laughter and sat speechlessly looking at me, one of the two blonde girls who had been happily chatting away about the summer holidays and God adventures with the Holy Spirit until the moment I couldn’t ignore next-door anymore. Somehow, when you’ve been chatting about the Holy Spirit for an hour, when something so incredibly offensive to Him, so out of place in a space of holiness and so counter the love of God, pipes up at the same time, the kingdom-clash feels even more jarring than normal. Too jarring to stay silent.

I didn’t have anything else to say. I wasn’t aggressive to him or angry at him. I just spoke what I knew to be true, then closed my mouth, and with neither smile nor frown, blinked back at the startled faces of the strangers who had been ridiculing another hand-made, image-of-God human.

“True.”

The boy I’d locked eyes with finally spoke. His eyebrows were still raised at being stopped in his tracks but he took the words, and it was almost like watching a balloon slowly losing its air, the bravado and “harmless” ridicule deflated before our eyes and then evaporated. Shortly afterwards, as my student friend and I picked back up our conversation and carried on our catch-up, the boys, a bit lost for words, received their takeaway order and left.

I have been sat in the position of the two lads next to me. We all have. Speaking about someone else’s life, carelessly making remarks and judgements over strangers or even friends, with seemingly no consequence to our words. It’s uncomfortable as a Christian to imagine that the Holy Spirit is still present in you and I during those times we have spoken about someone behind their back yet actually in front of Him.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. James 3

Next time I go to speak about someone or make a snap judgement I hope I remember that they’re still a person, made in God’s likeness.

Miriam Swanson

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church for student mission internationally. She's based in the USA and hungry to see young adults follow Jesus with all of who they are. 

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