Recently, two stories of public shaming have made headlines. One man well known and the other not. The first was Geoffrey Owens who was working at Trader Joe’s in New Jersey when a woman snapped a picture and posted it online. He is an actor formerly on The Cosby Show. He was publicly shamed for a moment, before scores of people turned to support the actor. The other man was a man that was shaving on the train when, again, his picture was posted online to shame him. It was then found out that this man was homeless and was given a train ticket by his brother to go stay with another family member. He wanted to look presentable, so he was shaving in public on a train. Neither of these men should have been made to feel bad for their predicament. I read these stories and felt lachrymose. I have had the same feeling when the website “People of Walmart” came out to shame individuals that looked or acted strange in Walmart. I just don’t see why we must shame people, especially if they are downtrodden.
As Christians, we should never publicly or privately shame someone. Our attitude should be one of humility and love toward our fellow image bearers. Look at Paul’s advice in Philippians 2: 3-8, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
I love how Paul tells us to count others more significant than ourselves, this is how we should look at other people. If we see them through the lens of humility, as more important than us, it will be easy to love and serve others. Our mind should not be like the world, rather we are encouraged to have the mind of Christ. I don’t think Christ would think that the “People of Walmart” is a funny site. I try not to take myself or life too seriously, but I find it hard to believe that God would approve of such mockery of His beloved creation. Each person has been crafted by God to bear His image, this is the distinction between us and all the other animals on the earth. We bear God’s image, this should mean something to us. So, when we see a poor soul that's unkept or dressed poorly or has a physical or mental issue we should not laugh, rather we should see them as God sees them---as a precious creation.
Our example for this humble mindset is Christ. Paul tells us that Jesus, who is God, did not claim His rights as sovereign ruler of the universe. He didn’t command that we bow before Him. He didn’t stand in front of us adored in all His glory and splendor. Instead He emptied Himself and came to us as a servant. Born into humanity so He could be like us, and then doing the most sacrificial thing He could ever do; He died on the cross for us. What if Christ looked at us as we look at others? What if He judged us for our hardships and bad choices? What if He looked down on our slobbish behavior or our propensity for idols? Christ refused to do that, instead He empathized with us, became like us and died for us.
This is the ultimate example of humility and one we need to keep in mind before we laugh at another human being. Of course, I like to have fun and don’t mind some good-natured kidding, but there must be a limit. We need to be able to tell the difference between joking with our buddies and really making fun of someone in a hurtful way. We must learn to see everyone as Christ sees them, which means learning to serve them. One easy way to serve someone is to pray for them. If you find yourself making fun of someone, even in your mind, start praying for them. This will train your mind to see them as God sees them. Also, give them the benefit of the doubt. You don’t know their situation, so don’t judge them for things you don’t know about. Then if you have the opportunity, get to know them. You never know how interesting or amazing they might be. Finally, find ways to share the gospel with them. Remember Jesus died for them and the only difference between you and them is the gospel.