But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
The way I have always heard this scripture taught, and in fact, the way I have myself taught this scripture, is that it means we humans should not judge our fellow men as though they are nothing more than covers on a book. And so we go around looking at people, trying to remember not to judge them. “She’s obviously eaten one too many cheesecakes.” “Wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley.” “She’s so pretty/perfect/put-together; I will never be that good.”
Every once in awhile, we realize that we’re doing better at not-judging-based-on-the-cover, and even manage to keep our less-than-awesome thoughts to ourselves. But I think if God wanted us to think of the scripture that way, then it would be as simplistic as Thumper says in Bambi, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Obviously then, it’s meant to be something deeper than that. Something more. So what’s the level beyond this?
I suppose it would be not just thinking the thought, but getting to the point where we don’t even think the negative thought.
Yet we are human. God knows we are always going to be looking at the world and people around us and evaluating it based on our perceptions, experiences, and history. So yes, there is the element of, “Be kind to one another. Stop being judgy,” to this scripture. But even more than that, I think the more profound lesson is the insight into how God thinks. Remember in Isaiah 55 he says, “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”
It wasn’t until recently that I experienced what it felt like to not be judged by someone. My entire life I have encountered people who think I would be better if I change – including my own mother. I have literally faced this since birth – others’ dissatisfaction with who I am at any point in time. I suppose it’s because they see life through a mirror, where only people who are like them can be happy or worthy. There is great emotional security in being made to feel welcome in a place where the walls ooze love and warmth, with no expectations other than being yourself. That is a definition of a haven, or sanctuary, is it not? Total protection from the outside world while you recoup or recharge or whatever else needs to be done.
When I realized what it felt like to be in a place and with people who completely accepted me for who I am/was in any given moment and did not try to change me according to what THEY thought was best, I began to see what it would feel like to be loved and accepted like that all the time. I wondered where else I might be able to find such a haven, and it came to me – that’s how God loves.
I believe this scripture in 1 Samuel is an insight into how He loves us. “You all may be busy running around judging each other based on looks and social status, and I get it. You’re human. It’s what mortals tend to do. But let me tell you about how I love. Come to me. My arms are open, waiting for you. I know what you have endured, seen, witnessed, felt, experienced – I know the hell you have been through. I know how your own judgments toward yourself are harsh and mean. But none of those things matter to me, because what I see is your heart. I see your desires for righteousness, your efforts to keep progressing. I see the goodness in your heart, even if all you can see about yourself right now are thoughts that tear you down. Come to me. Let me hold you. Because all that other stuff? I don’t care about. All I care about is you and your heart.”
God Loves Us More Than We Know
“Heavenly Father’s interest in you does not depend on how rich or beautiful or healthy or smart you are. He sees you not as the world sees you; He sees who you really are. He looks on your heart. And He loves you because you are His child.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Your Wonderful Journey Home,” April 2013.)
“Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you. God does not look on the outward appearance.
I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.
“He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” October 2009.)