Periodically over the years, Mindy and I have purchased VHS tapes for Reese. Yes, you heard me correctly. VHS tapes. We still have two working VCRs. Yes, you heard me correctly.
You see, we can go to a thrift store and get Reese a movie for a dollar or two. If Reese hates a particular selection, or if the tape breaks, it’s no big deal. Only a buck lost.
One time a number of years back, I had Reese in a thrift store, and we were choosing a movie. She was advocating for this lame-looking and needless sequel to Beauty and the Beast. I was advocating for a lesser work in Disney’s classic animation canon, The Rescuers.
I offered it to Reese and told her I thought she would really enjoy it. She took (literally) a second to look at the front of the box, and said with all the finality of a death sentence, “I no like this.” I told her she hadn’t even seen it, but it didn’t matter.
At the time Reese was very busy dividing the entire world into two categories. I guess it’s a little like how Genesis said God divided the primordial world into day and night. For Reese the categories were “I like” and “I no like”.
Sometimes Reese not liking something meant she was interested in something else at that particular moment. Sometimes it meant she simply hadn’t tried whatever she’d condemned. Sometimes it meant she was scared of it. And, of course, other times it meant the most obvious thing – she had experienced it and found it lacking.
Now I know that this process of evaluation is an essential part of life for all of us. We can’t function without it. I know my “like/no like” meter turns on all the time. Sometimes it seems to switch on all by itself, almost without my knowledge.
One day I saw a movie (on DVD, not VHS) and was telling Mindy about it the next morning. Out of nowhere I mentioned that it was actually a movie where, in my estimation, the male actors were better looking that the females.
Huh? Apparently my like/no like meter was running while I watched the film. This comment was my way of saying “I no like” the looks of the women in this movie. I didn’t even realize I was sizing people up that way as I watched the film.
This “like/no like” is part of life and useful, I suppose, as long as it doesn’t become the only voice we hear or the center of our heart’s universe. I may like something (someone) or not like it (her), but what does God think? What do the Christian virtues of compassion and kindness say? What about the needs of the other person, the one I am so coldly evaluating?
In all of this dwells the deep danger of “no liking” someone else to the point of treating them like a devil or assuming the other person must have a one-way ticket to Hell since you “no like” them.
There’s an old saying that goes like this: Question -- “What did Jesus say to the prostitute?” Answer – “Jesus never met a prostitute.” The sense is that even when Jesus met a prostitute he didn’t see her that way.
I don’t agree. I’m pretty sure when Jesus met a prostitute, or a traitorous tax man, or a Roman soldier, or his betrayer, he knew who he was dealing with on that obvious level. Like all of us, he had a “like/no like” evaluation meter thing going on behind his eyes.
But Jesus is the Son of God. There were other voices within him. This prostitute was also a person showing him unsurpassed kindness. This tax man could become a sign of how far God’s love can reach. This foreign soldier occupying his country may have faith unmatched even by God’s own people. This betrayer did not have the power to ultimately turn back God’s mission to resurrect the world.
The Apostle Paul suggests this isn’t just for Jesus. The way Paul puts it to the church in his second letter to Corinth, Greece is this:
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come!”
Saying “I like this” or “I don’t like that” is a necessary part of living in this world. Sure. But allowing God’s Spirit to speak a deeper voice within us to guide us beyond those likes and dislikes is more necessary still. It is a necessary part of living in God’s new world begun in Jesus Christ.