I came back from Sunderland on the train yesterday afternoon. I like to people watch on trains. Though I fear that this sometimes means that other passengers think I am stalking them. Certainly, that I am a bit of a weirdo!
So when four young people got on the train at Hartlepool my interest was aroused. There were two north eastern lasses, easily identifiable by their accents. A posh lad from the South and a very quiet lad who looked about 12. The girls were easy to tell apart because one had multiple piercings and another had multiple tattoos. It became clear quite quickly that there were two couples. Piercing girl with quiet lad and tattoo girl with posh boy.
I put them as students returning home. Their mental capacity obvious from the fact that they set about trying to do the "Spot The Difference" that the train company had provided on the table for young children. Which proved too hard for them.
When they got out their cans, cider for the girls and beer for the boys, my prejudices were heightened. With each can I felt my moral superiority rising. They got through about 8 each on the journey. The girls had to restock from the buffet car!
So I had them sussed. Drunk students, of limited intellect, who were going to have a very limited view of life.
I was wrong.
Fortunately they held their conversation at a level that suggested they'd forgotten that there was anyone else in the carriage. I say fortunately because it was fascinating. Around about York I thanked them. I told them that it was like being beside a brilliant soap opera. I couldn't concentrate on my book at all!
The volume meant that I learnt the following things about them.
1. They were all living and working in London in reasonably well paid jobs.
2. "Tattoo girl" was in a very well paid job and had recently been posted to Amsterdam.
3. "Tattoo girl" was married to "posh boy". This seemed culturally so odd it shocked me. They had a house that they had brought together, which they were offering to "piercing girl" and "quiet lad" to rent whilst they were working oversees.
4. "Tattoo girl" and "posh boy" had been to Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge). I didn't pick up which. But they had studied at a high level. A fact proven by...
5. "Tattoo girl" and "posh boy" spoke Chinese! His reading and writing is better than hers, but her pronunciation and spoken Chinese is better than his.
6. They were all far better travelled than I was.
7. They were thinking through their views on children, discipline in society, gender fluidity and a host of other issues.
8. They were willing to engage in a bit of cross aisle banter with me. Especially when they offered to put their music on (declined) and then started talking about looking at a website called "Naked Celebrities" (They decided it was a bad idea in a public space!).
9. They were genuinely very witty and funny. Though as the drink got a hold of them the level of their repartee declined.
Now why do I tell you this. Not just to show how wrong you can be about people. But also because it shows my own judgemental attitudes towards people based on their appearance. My assumptions were incorrect in almost every way.
However I was right on the most important count. That they desperately needed Jesus. There was so much confusion, brokenness and insecurity in their conversation. They needed a better vision of what it was to be a human being. There was also so much blasphemy, gossip, slander and worshipping of created things. They needed saving from the righteous anger of the loving God they had rejected.
I must be slower to judge others based on some middle class, fuddy duddy, middle aged criteria, that has nothing to do with what matters. But I also must be quicker to remember that God will judge people. Whoever they are and whatever they look like. According to His perfect standards.
That's why when I got off the train and wished them well for their new life in Holland, my real sadness was that I hadn't had an opportunity to share Jesus Christ with them. I'd been too busy judging them to pray that the Lord would give me a way of speaking to them about His love. There had been time. Even whilst they were necking the booze.