Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt like Mr. Cellophane from the musical Chicago? I have felt this way more often than I care to admit. In other cultures, it might be the norm, but in America, not looking someone in the eye sends a message: ”You aren’t very important to me”. Forget about trying to remember someone’s name; the eyes come first.
God commands us to love one another (1 John 3:23). Love can be communicated in many different ways… by listening, by helping, through words of encouragement and hope, and through acts of selfless service. But love always starts with ”hello”. When you first meet someone, do you give them undivided attention, or are you looking for the next person to meet?
I can count on one hand the times in my life when I have witnessed someone giving consistent focused attention to a group of new people; treating each person as uniquely important. How about you?
We meet new people at the grocery store, at the pharmacy, standing in line for tickets to a show, waiting for a table at a restaurant, at a power-lunch or networking event, and even at church. How do you make people feel when you first meet them? My suggestion is to first make them feel important to you with your eyes. There are other suggestions, but this is a good first step.
In my church, there is a small time set aside at the beginning of service to ”go shake some hands”. This is where I have most often felt invisible to those new people I’m meeting. For some visualization, imagine you are in a dense fog and all you see coming at you is a hand. So, you start to extend your hand to meet theirs. Now, if you are like me, the next thing you do is look up and see whose hand it is.
This is the moment of truth. Will the person be looking at you as they shake your hand, or will they be looking left, right, or past you for the next hand? The goal is not to ”shake as many hands in the next 30 seconds as possible” and the winner gets a prize. It’s about connecting briefly with another human being.
I’m calling you to be the type of person who looks the other person in the eye. When they look up, they should see you looking at them and only them. While you say hello, continue to look at them. In that brief moment, make them feel important with your eyes.
Jesus Christ was quoted as saying ”If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) The practical application today is this: How can you love others if you aren’t even willing to give them your brief undivided attention? If it’s tough to do this in church with fellow believers, how are you possibly going to make non-believers feel important when you meet them?
When it comes to evangelism and connecting with non-believers, I won’t suggest I have it all figured out. But I do know this: true evangelism starts with a loving relationship where the other person feels as important to you as they are to our heavenly Father. The first and possibly only chance you will get to develop such a relationship depends on your eyes. Where are they focused?
My plea is that you let the whole world turn into a thick fog where the only thing you see is the other person’s eyes. In that moment, choose to love them as our Father has commanded, through focused attention. Who knows? The next time you meet them they might actually remember your name and you might remember theirs.