While on a work crew in Portland, Oregon, two jail inmates helped save the life of John Harlan, a local deputy. When Harlan suddenly doubled over in pain, instead of making a break for it, inmates Robert Parker and Michael Smith administered CPR—with 911-dispatcher assistance. A medical doctor who happened upon the scene also provided treatment until the ambulance arrived, but the EMS crew credited the two inmates’ “quick action” for saving the day.1 Why did this event make the news? Because their actions weren’t what most of us would expect. The orange “uniforms” generally suggest to us a different story about the people wearing them. Is the old adage true? Should we not judge a book by its cover?
One afternoon I walked up to a store entrance right behind two young men. One was “clean-cut” and well dressed; the other boasted spiked orange hair, nose rings, neck chains, and dark, disheveled clothes. My initial “judgment” of them as individuals, however, was quickly dispelled when the clean-cut youth walked through the door and let it slam into our faces. The other young man then held the door for me, graciously saying, “Please, go ahead.” Another lesson learned!
As Jesus one day approached the booth at which Matthew, a taxgatherer, was working, He said to him, “Follow Me,” calling Matthew into His closest circle of disciples. A Jew who worked for the Romans in such a position “was despised” and “classed with the vilest of society,”2 but Jesus knew this man was open to truth. Matthew “left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:28).
People look on the outward appearance, but thankfully, God knows the heart.