Archives For People Watching

People watching is fascinating because each person is uniquely crafted by God and people bear the image of God. This is true of every person, whether they have been redeemed or not. While it’s true that sin taints every aspect of our existence and therefore causes us to resemble God less and less, humanity still bears the fingerprints of its Creator. Try as he might, man simply cannot re-create himself entirely—his very existence points to the God who formed him. And although after the fall man does not resemble God the way he should, he still bears the image of God (James 3:9).

But there is a side to humanity that makes people watching an incredibly God-honoring activity. When God breaks into a person’s life, the results are absolutely unbelievable.

When God reaches into the core of our being, removes the heart of stone, gives us a living, beating heart, and puts his very Spirit inside of us (see Ezek. 36:25-27), something beautiful is bound to break free in our lives. Something about us is going to look a little different.

"The Conversion of Saint Paul" by Luca Giordano

When a man sets out on a journey to kill those who follow Jesus, is confronted with the blinding light of Jesus in all his glory, and then persistently sacrifices every fiber of his being to see the message of Jesus embraced in every part of the world, it is a beautiful thing (see the book of Acts). When a spiritually dead person comes alive and begins to do the things that God has created her to do, we can’t help but take notice (see Eph. 2:1-10).

Most of the people around us exhibit what Paul calls “the works of the flesh” (see Gal. 5:19-21). Look around. How much envy, sensuality, division, rivalry, and sexual immorality do you see?

By contrast, God has placed his Spirit inside of his people. And the Spirit works in us to produce things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Gal. 5:22-23). These aren’t things that people can muster up by sheer will power. These are fruits of the Spirit.

So sit back and people watch. When you see a brother or sister in Christ exhibiting goodness, being supernaturally patient, or rejoicing in a difficult situation, you are seeing a clear example of God at work in the life of a once-broken human heart. When God’s unrelenting redemption enters the picture, people watching takes on a depth of beauty that we could never anticipate.

The simple fact is that people point to God. Sometimes this is in spite of their best efforts. In denying God’s existence with their words, atheists are making use of the brains, vocal cords, and rational thought process that have been crafted by the very God they are denying. Their message is therefore dissonant and ultimately retains its witness to the God who formed them.

But sometimes people point us to God more directly. Very often, the beauty and truth that finds its ultimate source in God himself breaks out in the lives of his people. So watch away. There is something unique about human beings (see Gen. 1-2, Ps. 8, or Heb. 2). People watching can help us see God in a way that we would never pick up from reading a book. Or reading a blog.

 

I love staring at people. I don’t even know how to say it in a less creepy way. People are just plain fascinating.

I first got a taste for people watching when I was dating my wife. She studied kids in college. Seriously. She was a child development major. So every date we ever went on involved some degree of observation. She would sit there, wide-eyed, mouth slightly agape, and just take it all in. I didn’t understand her preoccupation. Now I see that she was on to something.

You never know what people are going to do. What makes a cool person cool? Or an awkward person awkward? Or a funny person funny? Why do so many people fall in line with social norms? And why do a few people seem to be oblivious to these norms? Why do these select few do things in a way that no one else would think to do it? How can people be so alike and yet so different?

There is a theological reason why people are so fascinating. People are actually hand-crafted by the Creator (Psalm 139:13-16). So when we look at another human being, we are actually looking at a work of art more intricate than anything a human artist could ever imagine. A human being is a staggering feat of engineering, chemistry, physics, aesthetics, etc.

As amazing as that is, it doesn’t take into account the soul. The most incredible thing about human beings is that we are actually made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). There is a lot of debate about what exactly that “image” is (our personality? our ability to reason? our will? our stewardship? some kind of physical resemblance?), but the point is that in some important respect, we are made to resemble God.

Those two things are all the justification we’ll ever need to stare at people. Everyone you see has been hand-crafted by God and bears God’s image. Unbelievable. Walk into a museum and you can stare at Van Gogh’s artwork. Walk into a coffee shop and you can stare at God’s.

Of course, sin ensures that people do not resemble God and His craftsmanship as nearly as they should. Sin can even have an aesthetic affect on us. Yet the image of God still remains even after the fall (see James 3:9).

So stare away. In a sense, staring at people is a way of staring at God. We always have to be cautious of sin—sin pervades our hearts and turns admiration of God and His handiwork into idolatry, jealousy, slander, and lust. But people are still fascinating. They deserve to be watched. So don’t be creepy, but watch what people do and admire them for God’s sake.

In the next post, I will discuss another important aspect of people watching: the unbelievable beauty that comes out of a person’s life when the Spirit does His work.