This morning I had the opportunity to hear an old song written by the great American composer Leonard Bernstein, so I was curious to learn of more things he had written and decided to look him up. While researching this great composer I discovered that when he was young his father adamantly opposed his going into music. There was certainly no celebration at the Bernstein home the day that Leonard entered music school, that’s for sure. Reflecting on those early days Bernstein notes, “If you were to ask my father today if he opposed my desire this he would not deny it, but he would rationalize, ‘How was I to know that he was destined to be the Leonard Bernstein?’
Anticipating what people may become is not an easy thing. It is hard sometimes to see the man in the boy, the professor in the slow learner, the overcomer in the failure, the beauty queen in the pimply faced girl, the best friend in our worst enemy, the saint in the sinner. However, by God’s grace people can far exceed our expectations. They can break through the ceiling we have set for them. When it comes to looking at people, it would be good to have double vision. We need to reprogram ourselves to look beyond what they are in the present to what they can become through the artistry of God transforming grace in the future.
In the gospel of John, we are introduced to the very useful prophetic double vision of Jesus Christ regarding Simon Peter. Jesus looks on Simon and tells him that he will be called Cephas, meaning the stone (John 1:40-42). Jesus sees Simon, the volatile fisherman, who is as unpredictable as the winds that sweep across the Sea of Galilee, but he also sees Peter, the rock solid apostle, who will be a pillar in the early church (Gal. 2:9). In this change of name, we have the anticipation of future grace, and the transformation of this man’s character. Peter is the pebble that became a rock. Jesus sees them both, Jesus looks beyond the moment and the man and envisions what he will become. He knows how the story ends with God as its author. Jesus sees potential where others do not. No matter how Peter felt about himself, Jesus loved him and saw not only what Peter could be, but what he would be (2 Cor. 5:17). Christ changed Peter, and Peter changed the world.
The gospel of God’s grace allows us to write people in, who others often write off. People can change and exceed our expectations. As people some of us tend to define ourselves, only as others see us, living up only to the expectations set by those around us, therefore we all deserve a second look. The German poet, Goethe, once stated, “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he was what he potentially could be, and you make him better.” Just as it does not appear right now what we shall be when God is finished with us, so we need to remember that others can become what they are not right now (1 John 3:2). Anticipating future grace in another’s life is the assurance and hope of the gospel. There are still diamonds to be found in the rough if we will simply take a second look. Today, take a moment and give someone a second glance and another chance you may be surprised at what you see.