First Impressions

Yesterday, I was in the library at Calvin College and Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While I was there I stepped into the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies. The Center boasts the largest collection of materials in North America on John Calvin, one of the greatest leaders of the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin's legacy, which is felt world-wide, had its roots in Geneva. As I glanced at one of the displays that chronicled his life I noticed this:

Calvin's first role in the city was to give public lectures during the week on the Bible, and he was so unknown that the first reference to him in the city council registers is to "that Frenchman."

It has been more than 500 years since Calvin was born, yet the ripples of his life are still being felt DAILY. That is absolutely amazing, especially when we consider that the first impressions of the 27-year-old were relatively unimpressive. The city council did not even know his name.      

How often are our first impressions equally dismissive:   

  • "that kid"
  • "that young punk"   
  • "that guy" 
  • "that girl"
  • "that failure"
  • "that ..."  

Rare is the person who looks past youth, gender, experience, or present maturity to see what one might be.  

Barnabas was that rare person.  

When the Jerusalem disciples heard Saul was in town, they could only see "that persecutor." Not Barnabas. He looked beyond Saul's past:     

When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.  

And when [Saul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.  Acts 9:23-28 ESV

Barnabas did not let others "first impressions" govern his opinion. Why? He knew the power of the gospel. He knew that Jesus makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5). That goes for "little punks" and big persecutors.  

When we understand this, our first impressions don't have to be our governing impressions. Instead, we see with different eyes. We see not what one is, but what he/she can be in Christ.   

Who are you looking at today? May God give you eyes to see what He sees.