The Body Builder
As Others See Us
by Captain Terry Camsey –
* “Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It wad from monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.”
(Robert Burns– “To a Louse”)
We tend to see the world not as it is, but as we interpret it based on our own backgrounds, intelligence, experiences, etc. If I held up a glass which had water in it up to the halfway mark and asked you if it were half full or half empty, the optimists among you would say, “It’s half full!” The pessimists would say, “It’s half empty!”
Who is right? Both pessimist and optimist. The reality is that the glass is both half full and half empty. What does the future hold for that glass of water? The pessimist would say, “It’ll soon be empty!” The optimist would say, “We could fill it to the brim again!”
We could, of course, do either…let it empty completely, or keep filling it up. Depending on whether we consider ourselves optimists or pessimists.
Are our halls half empty or half full? What we see will determine our response!
As a church, however, the way others see us can also impact the effectiveness of the ministry we strive to carry out. Those who see us as a non-profit social agency will respond to us accordingly. Those who see us as a church responding to the poorest people in the community will also respond according to whether they see themselves as poor people. Interestingly, in a study of the inner-city poor which we (USA Western Territory) completed a few years ago with the Percept company, the poor we interviewed did not see themselves as poor, despite living below the poverty line. There is always someone worse off, isn’t there? It’s all to do with our perceptions!
There are those who take comfort in the “fact” that our uniform is well recognized by the general public. It may well be, but as representing what?
If we assume that they recognize wearers of it as Christians, we may be in for a shock. There is certainly nothing on the uniform to indicate that, unless–in the case of men wearing caps–the observer can pick out the cross on a very small badge. Even the assumption that: “The Salvation Army” says it all (assuming that caps and hats are worn, because that’s often the only place it states this) can be erroneous. Another survey among baby boomers revealed that one man thought “Salvation” meant “succor.”…that we came to the help of those in need–which we, together with many other agencies, Christian and otherwise–do.
Do people outside the Army see what we see? Do they see what we want them to see? Look at the sketch. The building represents the Army, the girl to the right represents a Salvationist. The boy represents people outside the movement. He sees into room A and we don’t. He sees things about us that we do not recognize in ourselves.
He also sees into room B, and so do we. We both see the same things about the Army.
The girl (representing we “insiders”) sees into room C, but the boy (outsiders) does not. Maybe this represents things we do not want outsiders to know about us. But look at room D…neither the boy nor the girl (insiders or outsiders) sees into that part of us…but God does!
Now, how could that metaphor be used to improve our understanding of the unsaved and their understanding of us as a unique kind of church? Think about it.
*”Wouldn’t it be great if God gave us the ability
To see ourselves as we are seen by others.
It would surely save us from making silly mistakes
And false assumptions.”