People and Picnic Tables


So yesterday I had something relatively strange happen.  I am currently working out of a friend’s office space.  It was either that or work from home and I have a suspicion that if I worked from home I would never make it past the recliner.  

So, the office I am in has the thermostat set somewhere between your freezer and Jack-in-the-water-at-the-end-of-Titanic.  (Yes there was plenty of room on the door for him too) In an attempt to thaw out my frozen fingers, I went out back to let the Tennessee heat raise my core body temperature back to that of a living being.

Once I got outside I took off my gloves, toboggan, parka, and boots so I could make a call.  After I stopped shivering, I called my wife to tell her a bunch of really nice and complementary things.  Ok, that’s not true.  I was actually asking about dinner.  What was about to happen next would forever change my life.

I looked up and saw it… Something I never would have imagined…

There was a man lying naked on a picnic table in his backyard tanning.  I felt violated, speechless, confused, and many more emotions.  It was like time stopped at the most horrific moment possible.  In fact, I’m not sure I will ever be able to look at a picnic table the same ever again.

My first thought was the same as everyone who’s reading this… I have to take a picture because no one is going to believe me.  Let’s not act like you wouldn’t have thought that.  So I did, but no worries, the photo will be omitted.  I like to keep it PG-13 on social media.  Could hurt my brand.  I didn’t think, “call the cops” or “run away.”  Its like I was frozen.  Actually I may have been frozen because of the office.

So I have shared this story with tons of people.  Who doesn’t want to hear about a naked man tanning on a picnic table?  Every person I have told has asked one question: “Did he have a nice tan?”  Kidding.  The question every time has been, “what was that guy thinking?” 

So since then I have been wondering that exact question.  (Yes I have spent some time wondering about the mindset of a naked picnic table tanner) I mean it is really hot in Tennessee.  Maybe he slept walked out there.  Maybe his picnic table is incredibly comfortable.  Maybe it was so cold in the office I was hallucinating.  Who really knows the answer?

One thing I have certainly learned in life is people are strange.  Maybe not tan naked in a neighborhood on a picnic table strange, but strange nonetheless.  Countless times a week I wonder, “what were they thinking?”  Not only are people strange, but they are also frustrating, annoying, agitating, and many more words I can’t type in a blog…

Throughout the Bible there is a very clear and consistent message:  It doesn’t matter what someone does, who they are, or what others think about them. They matter.  Jesus took time to be with leading people of the day and still had a drink break with a lowly woman at a well.  Jesus sat with a rich tax collector and still lay next to poor fishermen- turned-disciples.  Jesus lived a life that demonstrated the anywhere and anyone power of the Gospel.

We have a tendency to turn people into objects.  Instead of them being a person they are a “celebrity,” “alcoholic,” “democrat,” “the naked guy lying on the picnic table,” “republican,” etc.  I think the reason we do this is it helps us feel better about the judgments we pass on one another.  None of those titles change the fact that they were made in the image of God, whether they are true or false.  (Only exception is “Alabama fan.”  Kidding.  Kind of.)  So as believers we hold a responsibility to treat them as such.  People aren’t things.  People matter.

There aren’t many phrases I dislike more than “anyone is replaceable,” mainly because the Bible vehemently disagrees.  The Bible makes it clear that every person is unique because we serve a creative God.  You can replace someone’s position but you will never replace his or her essence.  Every person we come in contact with is a unique accomplishment of a creative God.  We should cherish one another.

Take a look at the people around you.  They are all products of their pasts and present.  They have fought battles you would never know.  They are even stranger than you may guess.  Maybe they aren’t a good person, but a bad person is still a person.  The people walking around you have been given a position a little lower than the angels but above all other creation.  They matter.  We should treat all people in a Christ-like way.

It’s easy to criticize people from a distance.  It’s Christ-like to get close enough to try and help what you criticize.  It’s easy to spread gossip about a person.  It’s Christ-like to share good news with a person.  It’s easy to write people off because of your feelings.  It’s Christ-like to decide people are more valuable than your feelings.  It’s kind of exactly what Jesus has done for us.  What greater compliment could the church be given than “I believe they treat me as Jesus would.”

Because of grace and mercy anything is possible.  We believe at The Movement Church that because of those two realities that no person is too far.  We should believe in people not because they deserve it, but because grace and mercy are too powerful not to believe in.  May we always believe in what God can do in a person more than we believe in what a person has done or doesn’t do.

There are a lot of questions about people we will never have answers to.  Really, the only question we should ask ourselves about people is this, “have I treated them as someone made in God’s image?”  If the answer is no, then there is no better time to start than today.

If God can love you and I, then really do we have any excuse to not do the same for others?  Take some time and sit down to get to know those around you.  I know of a picnic table you could probably use…