My fiance and I were catching up on The Chosen this weekend, and I was struck by something one of the disciples said to Matthew: The people out there want to define us by our past. They are sleepers. But we are awake.
We all have a past that we can’t change. We all have a past “us” that no longer is and that we’ve grown beyond. It’s part of our story, but it should never define us or determine our future.
As I reflected on these lines from the show, I realized that the Gospels make it perfectly clear that Jesus saw who people could be, not who they were in the past. In fact, He always called them out of their past and into their future. He helped them pave a new way forward. He believed in their potential and gave them every reason to hope. After all, He was sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, release captives, free the oppressed, and to proclaim God’s favor.
Whether it was being possessed by demons, paralyzed, infirmed, blind, or sick with sin, Jesus always pointed forward and never backward. All of the needy people in the Gospels that encountered Jesus had a moment of healing and awakening physically, emotionally or spiritually that set their path in a positive direction.
Isn’t that consistent with who God is? Merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness and love, wonder-working, and welcoming of the prodigal.
How does this apply to how we live today? I see a tendency to define people based on their past in many areas of my life. Rarely do we see people for what they could be, but rather who they’ve been. We don’t give people a chance. We don’t embrace that God can change someone for the better and that people can and do grow. Imagine if we changed the focus. People may rise even further to their God-given potential. To not see people’s potential, is to not be awake to God’s constant evolving work in their lives.
As Christ’s Body on earth, perhaps we need to take a cue from Christ himself to stop limiting God and defining people based on who they were in the past. Rather, let’s start focusing on who they are now and who they could be.