Throughout our lives we are faced with making decisions on how to improve things. Every year at tax time, we see our monies in and monies out. We pay close attention to dollars saved and spent. Based on these findings we make certain adjustments. Every six months or yearly we take our car to get inspected and tuned up. At work we are reviewed by our management and suggestions are made to help us advance in the company. The list goes on and on and seems endless. Most of these are triggered by a date or an anniversary of something. In short, we know it is time to do something, to improve something.

What triggers do we use to evaluate our spiritual progress? A retreat? A Holy Day? A death in the family? A marriage? How do we assess our friendship with Jesus? How do we know that our bonds are getting closer to our Savior and Redeemer? This is a difficult situation. On the one hand, we cannot just assume that because days are going by we are getting closer to Him. It might even seem presumptuous of us to think along these lines. On the other hand, we know ourselves and we see all the areas that need improvement. Our struggles seem to pulling us farther away.

Let’s take a look at one area of our lives that is with us always, our perceptions of others. You see someone of another race walking in your direction, what are your first thoughts? The dirty, unwashed beggar, you see at the corner, holding up a card board sign asking you to, “Please help”, what are your first thoughts? The woman in the bank or grocery store, dressed with a veil from head to toe, what first thoughts does she prompt in you? The noisy neighbor, the unruly child, the son or daughter that seems to do just the opposite of what you want, what do they prompt in you? Every person that we see on the street, in the store, in our lives, all of them prompt in us a first thought, our perception of them.

We cannot go to church on Sunday declaring to Jesus how much we love Him and then go out and harbor these first thoughts of others. John chapter 4, verse 20 says it clearly enough for us, “For he that does not love his brother, whom he sees, how can he love God, whom he does not see?” Our first thoughts of others, our perceptions of others, they portray the stereotyped images that we have built up in our lives. These images are holding us back and we may not even realize it.

In each person that we meet in our lives, the suffering Jesus resides. Each person is struggling as we are. They have the same basic concerns that we have. They, too, wish to be loved, wish they were better. They, like us, are trying to figure out the HOW. We must become aware of these perceptions that we have, when they occur, not the day after. Instead of wrapping ourselves tighter for protection, or aloofness, or disdain, try a smile, a kind word, a prayer. Be careful though, of feeling justified if you should do this. They are brought into our lives not so we will feel good, but so we can provide them comfort. We can give Jesus what He needs for that person.

These people are letting us know how we can truly be a Christian. They are if you will, our daily triggers that let us know our progress or stagnancy in following Christ. Around 200 A.D, Tertullian cited, “See how these Christians love one another.” This remark was posed in stark contrast to the hatred and killing that their pagan persecutors were filled with. How well do we love one another? Don’t know? Just wait a minute. Another trigger will pass by shortly.