Below is a remarkable commercial from Coca Cola Middle East. The producers brought six strangers into a dark room and had them tell something about each other. Using infrared cameras the viewers are given the opportunity to realize the differences in appearance between the six. The differences are, to understate, extreme.
It takes just seven seconds to build a prejudice based on someone’s appearance. This Ramadan, Coke invited six strangers to an Iftar in the dark. See what they discovered and how it changed the way they see the world.
I do not know what the Q’ran teaches about judgment based on appearance, but the Christian scriptures are clear: it is out of bounds.
Jesus said in John 7:24:
Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather just according to righteous judgment. (HCSB)
The John passage finds Jesus Himself wrongly accused due to appearances. He’d healed on the Sabbath, which did not sit well with the religious leaders. To them it appeared wrong. It was not.
The Apostle James warns against giving preferential treatment based on grand wardrobes:
My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in. If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over here,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool” haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (2:1-4, HCSB)
James goes on to warn those who would get the preferential treatment are often the very ones who dragged them into courts.
A well known verse in the Old Testament says:
For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (ESV)
Jesse misjudged David, Saul misjudged David, and Goliath misjudged David, all based on his outward appearance. Goliath misjudged David fatally.
I remember as a kid of 9 or 10 watching TV and making a reference to a bearded, long-haired guy as “a hippie” with a dash of tone for flavor. My Mom, who is about as straight-laced as they come, said, “Don’t say that. You can’t tell what’s in his heart.” She proceded to tell me the story of a follower of Jesus who adopted the look of the 60s revolution to integrate with that group and share the gospel.
She could have mentioned the Jesus People movement, or Rez Band, but the point was made.
Why should we be cautious about first impressions? They can be deceiving. Why should we be cautious about outward appearances? Because things are not always as they appear. Let’s take time to know people for who they are, not just for who they might, in our eyes, appear to be.
You also might enjoy “Unwinding the ‘judge not’ knot.”
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