Try to See Others as Jehovah Sees Them
“Not the way man sees is the way God sees.”—1 SAMUEL 16:7.
1, 2. How did Jehovah’s view of Eliab differ from that of Samuel, and what can we learn from this?
IN THE 11th century B.C.E., Jehovah sent the prophet Samuel on a secret mission. He commanded the prophet to go to the house of a man named Jesse and anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the future king of Israel. When Samuel caught sight of Jesse’s firstborn, Eliab, he felt sure that he had found the one whom God had chosen. But Jehovah said: “Do not look at his appearance and at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.” (1 Samuel 16:6, 7) Samuel had failed to see Eliab as Jehovah saw him.a
2 How easy it is for humans to err in their assessment of others! On the one hand, we may be taken in by individuals who are outwardly appealing but inwardly unscrupulous. On the other hand, we may be stern and unbending in our evaluation of sincere individuals whose personality traits annoy us.
3, 4. (a) If a problem arises between two Christians, what should each one be determined to do? (b) What questions should we ask ourselves when we have a serious disagreement with a fellow believer?
3 Problems can arise when we are quick to judge others—even those we have known for years. Perhaps you have had a serious quarrel with a Christian who was once a close friend. Would you like to heal the breach? What will help you to accomplish this?
4 Why not take a good, long, positive look at your Christian brother or sister? And do this in the light of Jesus’ words: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) Then ask yourself: ‘Why did Jehovah draw this person to His Son? What desirable qualities does the individual possess? Have I been overlooking or undervaluing these traits? Why did we become friends in the first place? What drew me to this person?’ At first, you may find it difficult to think of good points, particularly if you have been nursing hurt feelings for some time. However, this is a vital step toward repairing the rift between the two of you. To illustrate how this might be done, let us look for positive characteristics in two men who are at times cast in a negative light. They are the prophet Jonah and the apostle Peter.
A Candid Look at Jonah
5. What commission was given to Jonah, and how did he react?
5 Jonah served as a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel in the days of King Jeroboam II, son of Jehoash. (2 Kings 14:23-25) One day, Jehovah commanded Jonah to leave Israel and travel to Nineveh, the capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire. His assignment? To warn its inhabitants that their great city was going to be destroyed. (Jonah 1:1, 2) Instead of following God’s direction, Jonah ran away! He boarded a ship bound for Tarshish, far away from Nineveh.—Jonah 1:3.
6. Why did Jehovah choose Jonah to go to Nineveh?
6 What comes to your mind when you think of Jonah? Do you think of him as a disobedient prophet? A superficial look at him might yield such a conclusion. But did God appoint Jonah as a prophet because he was disobedient? Of course not! Jonah must have had some desirable qualities. Consider his record as a prophet.
7. Under what circumstances had Jonah been serving Jehovah in Israel, and how does knowing this affect your view of him?
7 Jonah had actually labored faithfully in Israel, a very unreceptive territory. The prophet Amos, who lived at about the same time as Jonah, described the Israelites of the day as materialistic pleasure-lovers.b Bad things were taking place in the land, but the Israelites were totally indifferent to them. (Amos 3:13-15; 4:4; 6:4-6) Yet, day after day Jonah faithfully carried out his commission to preach to them. If you are a proclaimer of the good news, you know how difficult it is to speak to people who are self-satisfied and apathetic. So, then, while acknowledging Jonah’s weaknesses, let us not overlook his qualities of faithfulness and endurance as he preached to the faithless Israelites.
8. What challenges would confront an Israelite prophet in Nineveh?
8 The assignment to go to Nineveh involved an even more difficult challenge. To reach that city, Jonah had to travel some 500 miles [800 km] on foot—an arduous journey that would take about a month. Once there, the prophet would have to preach to the Assyrians, who were noted for their cruelty. Sadistic torture was a frequent feature of their warfare. They even boasted about their savagery. No wonder Nineveh was called “the city of bloodshed”!—Nahum 3:1, 7.
9. When a violent storm threatened the mariners, what qualities did Jonah display?
9 Reluctant to obey Jehovah’s command, Jonah boarded a ship that carried him farther and farther away from his assignment. Nevertheless, Jehovah did not give up on his prophet or arrange for someone to replace him. Instead, Jehovah acted to bring Jonah to his senses. God caused a violent storm to come up at sea. The ship carrying Jonah was tossed about by the waves. Innocent men were about to perish, all because of Jonah! (Jonah 1:4) How would Jonah react? Not wanting the sailors aboard the vessel to lose their lives on his account, Jonah told them: “Lift me up and hurl me into the sea, and the sea will become still for you.” (Jonah 1:12) He had no reason to think that when the mariners finally did throw him overboard, Jehovah would rescue him from the sea. (Jonah 1:15) However, Jonah was willing to pay the ultimate price so that the sailors would not perish. Do we not see displayed here the qualities of courage, humility, and love?
10. What happened after Jehovah renewed Jonah’s assignment?
10 At length, Jehovah rescued Jonah. Did Jonah’s recent actions disqualify him from ever again serving God in an official capacity? No, Jehovah mercifully and lovingly renewed the prophet’s commission to preach to the Ninevites. When Jonah arrived in Nineveh, he courageously told its inhabitants that their great badness had come to God’s attention and that their city was going to be destroyed in 40 days. (Jonah 1:2; 3:4) After hearing Jonah’s straightforward message, the Ninevites repented, and their city was spared.
11. What indicates that Jonah learned a valuable lesson?
11 Jonah still did not have the right viewpoint. By means of an object lesson, though, Jehovah patiently helped Jonah to learn that He sees beyond mere appearance. He examines the heart. (Jonah 4:5-11) That Jonah learned a valuable lesson is evident by the candid account that he himself recorded. His willingness to report his shortcomings in embarrassing detail gives further proof of his humility. It takes courage to admit a mistake!
12. (a) How do we know that Jesus shares Jehovah’s view of people? (b) We are encouraged to maintain what view of the people to whom we preach the good news? (See box on page 18.)
12 Centuries later, Jesus Christ made a positive statement about an event in Jonah’s life. He said: “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40) After Jonah is resurrected, he will learn that Jesus compared His own time in the tomb to this dark period in the prophet’s life. Are we not glad to serve a God who does not give up on his servants when they make mistakes? The psalmist wrote: “As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13, 14) Indeed, this “dust”—including imperfect people today—can accomplish a great deal with the backing of God’s holy spirit!
A Balanced View of Peter
13. What traits of Peter may come to mind, but why did Jesus select him as an apostle?
13 Now let us briefly consider a second example, that of the apostle Peter. If you were asked to describe Peter, would you immediately think of such characteristics as rash, impetuous, even presumptuous? Peter did manifest such traits at times. However, would Jesus have selected Peter as one of his 12 apostles if Peter was really a rash, impetuous, or presumptuous man? (Luke 6:12-14) Of course not! Jesus clearly saw past these flaws and perceived Peter’s positive qualities.
14. (a) What might explain Peter’s seeming outspokenness? (b) Why should we be grateful that Peter frequently asked questions?
14 Peter at times acted as a spokesman for the other apostles. Some might view this as evidence of a lack of modesty. But is that necessarily so? It has been suggested that Peter may have been older than the other apostles—perhaps older than Jesus himself. If that is correct, this might help to explain why Peter was so often the first to speak. (Matthew 16:22) However, there is another factor to consider. Peter was a spiritual man. His thirst for knowledge moved him to ask questions. This has been to our benefit. Jesus made a number of precious statements in response to Peter’s questions, and these have been preserved in the Bible. For example, it was in response to a statement by Peter that Jesus spoke about “the faithful steward.” (Luke 12:41-44) And give thought to Peter’s question: “We have left all things and followed you; what actually will there be for us?” This led to Jesus’ strengthening promise: “Everyone that has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive many times more and will inherit everlasting life.”—Matthew 15:15; 18:21, 22; 19:27-29.
15. Why can it be said that Peter was truly loyal?
15 Peter had another fine quality—he was loyal. When many of the disciples left off following Jesus because they did not understand one of his teachings, it was Peter who spoke up in behalf of the 12 apostles and said: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:66-68) How those words must have warmed Jesus’ heart! Later, when a mob came to arrest the Master, most of his apostles fled. However, Peter followed the crowd at a distance and entered right into the courtyard of the high priest. Courage, not cowardice, took him there. While Jesus was interrogated, Peter joined a group of Jews who were warming themselves by the bright fire. One of the slaves of the high priest recognized him and accused him of having been with Jesus. Yes, Peter denied his Master, but let us not forget that it was loyalty and concern for Jesus that put Peter in that dangerous situation, one that most of the apostles did not dare face.—John 18:15-27.
16. For what practical reason have we considered the positive qualities of Jonah and Peter?
16 Peter’s positive qualities far outweighed his shortcomings. The same is true of Jonah. Just as we have taken a more positive view of Jonah and Peter than we normally might, we must similarly train ourselves to be more positive in our assessment of our present-day spiritual brothers and sisters. Doing so will lead to better relations with them. Why is there a real need for this?
Applying the Lesson Today
17, 18. (a) Why might friction develop between Christians? (b) What Bible counsel can help us to resolve difficulties with fellow believers?
17 Men, women, and children of all economic levels as well as educational and racial backgrounds are unitedly serving Jehovah today. (Revelation 7:9, 10) What a wide variety of personalities we see in the Christian congregation! Since we are serving God in close association, it is inevitable that friction will develop at times.—Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3.
18 While we are not blind to the shortcomings of our brothers, we do not focus on these. We strive to imitate Jehovah, of whom the psalmist sang: “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3) Instead of dwelling on personality traits that might divide us, we “pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Romans 14:19) We endeavor to see individuals as Jehovah sees them, looking past the flaws and focusing on the good qualities. When we do this, it helps us to “continue putting up with one another.”—Colossians 3:13.
19. Outline practical steps a Christian might take in resolving serious disagreements.
19 What if misunderstandings arise that we simply cannot resolve in our heart? (Psalm 4:4) Has this happened between you and a fellow believer? Why not try to settle the matter? (Genesis 32:13-15) First, approach Jehovah in prayer, asking for his guidance. Then, with the person’s fine characteristics in mind, approach him with the “mildness that belongs to wisdom.” (James 3:13) Tell him that you want to make peace. Remember the inspired counsel: “Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) The advice to be “slow about wrath” implies that the other person may do or say something that could make you angry. If that occurs, ask Jehovah for help in maintaining self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Let your brother have his say, and listen carefully. Do not interrupt him, even if you do not agree with everything he says. His viewpoint may be wrong, but it is his viewpoint nonetheless. Try to see the problem from his perspective. That may well include seeing yourself through your brother’s eyes.—Proverbs 18:17.
20. When settling differences, what further steps are likely to result in a reconciliation?
20 When it is your turn to speak, be gracious. (Colossians 4:6) Tell your brother what you appreciate about him. Apologize for any part that you have played in the misunderstanding. If your humble efforts result in reconciliation, give thanks to Jehovah. If they do not, keep asking Jehovah for guidance while you look for additional opportunities to make peace.—Romans 12:18.
21. How has this discussion helped you to see others as Jehovah sees them?
21 Jehovah loves all his servants. He is pleased to use all of us in his service despite our imperfections. As we learn more about his view of others, our love for our brothers and sisters will grow. If our love for a fellow Christian has grown cold, it can be rekindled. What a blessing will be ours if we make a determined effort to display a positive view of others—yes, to see them as Jehovah sees them!
a It later became apparent that handsome Eliab did not have the makings of a suitable king of Israel. When the Philistine giant Goliath challenged the Israelites in combat, Eliab, along with the other men of Israel, cowered in fear.—1 Samuel 17:11, 28-30.
b Because of some key conquests and restoration of former territory and the tribute likely collected as a result, Jeroboam II evidently did much to increase the wealth of the northern kingdom.—2 Samuel 8:6; 2 Kings 14:23-28; 2 Chronicles 8:3, 4; Amos 6:2.
How Would You Answer?
• How does Jehovah view the shortcomings of his faithful servants?
• What positive qualities of Jonah and Peter can you enumerate?
• What view of your Christian brothers are you determined to maintain?
[Box on page 18]
Think About How Others Appear to God
As you meditate on the Bible account of Jonah, do you see the need to take a fresh look at the people to whom you regularly preach the good news? They may appear to be self-satisfied or apathetic, like the Israelites, or may be opposed to God’s message. Nevertheless, how do they appear to Jehovah God? Even some individuals who are prominent in this system of things may one day turn to Jehovah, just as the king of Nineveh repented as a result of Jonah’s preaching.—Jonah 3:6, 7.
[Picture on page 15]
Do you see others as Jehovah sees them?
[Picture on page 16, 17]
Jesus found something positive to say about Jonah’s experience