I would like to discuss with you a statement that I contend is fraudulent, one that has been around for many centuries, “First impressions are the most important.” I believe that all those that make this statement are shallow individuals, and I see it as having no place to stand in the Christian community, but it seems to be just as prevalent there as it is nearly everywhere else.
That first impression is usually engraved upon us by our eyes, how we see a person, their clothes, hair, even in the way they walk or hold themselves, what we first see is many times how we first judge. And that is exactly what a first impression is, a judgement call, most generally one that is based on previous sightings of others in our past. Even with many years of experience, what we see and how we see others is many times misconstrued, for we have made a determining factor that all that look as they do fit within a specific group, and that group is always classified into a specific pattern to us. This is a sin, it is what is called a “normal sin,” for it is normal for nearly all to do this, to have that first impression and then make a judgement call based on what we see, both for the lost and the saved. We have judged with nothing more than our eyes; we have judged in accordance to the precepts of man.
“For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;” (James 2:2) Here in the Scriptures is just one proof of that sin, by looking only with our eyes, and most generally basing that first impression only within the construct of the wealth of the world that this individual either may or may not possess, we have made a judgement call. Our association with that person, whether or not we will desire to begin an acquaintanceship with them, will be based in either a negative or positive way by that first impression, and when it is negative because of only that first impression, it should be hated within the believer in Christ when it is recognized as such.
We have in a sense said that this individual, if he is dressed shabbily, is unworthy of any further recognition from us, and we cast them away from us in favor of the one in rich adornment. At one of its basest levels, the poor man can do nothing for us, while the rich man may be of use to us. We see what is unkept, unclean and dirty as beneath us, we fail to see with the eyes of the Lord, and the true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ chastises himself every time he does so. The man in the three-piece suit has shown the world, in our eyes at this first impression, that he has attained a particular status, reaching a rung on the ladder that is admirable to all that first glance at him. The first impression that he has attempted to gain has worked, he is admired and lifted up in our eyes, and more than likely he has also accomplished another task, whether he sought for it or not, he has introduced envy and jealousy into the heart of the one who judges only by first impressions.
Even the lowliest, drunken bum in the gutter knows the impression that is inferred upon him by his visage to others, but he does not revel in it as the rich man might, he cares little of what you think of him, but care he does. We have no problem sitting beside someone who is dressed relatively the same as we are, we may feel a slight twinge when seated by someone who is dressed impressively, decked out in fine gold and jewelry, but we will shy away many times from the one who, in our eyes, is poor, destitute and in need of much. There is a very good probability that both of these individuals need Christ, but in all honesty which will receive the more attention if they walk into your church, or into your life? One is repulsive in our eyes, provoking a response within us to move away from them, the other is acceptable to us, one to be admired, even respected and catered to, and both of them, if not approached by a believer in their life, may never hear the gospel, both will exist in an eternity of separation from the grace and mercy of God.
We all do this my friends, at more than one time in our very short lives here on earth, we all do this. And the sad part is, we all seek the same for ourselves, we seek the acceptance of others in the first impression area, we seek the praise of men. Far too many who know Christ as Lord still want to fit into the world, the perception of how others view them is far too important to them. Their hair must be cut to the right length and combed properly, their attire must be one of acceptability within their geographical area, or to those they meet each day, even their posture, the way they carry themselves is predetermined before they venture out into public. An image must be portrayed, the tie must be straight, the make-up properly applied, the impression must be suitable to what they believe a Christian should look like, at least in public, but whether they will admit it to themselves or not, they are seeking the praise of men.
But isn’t it interesting, amongst their family and the very closest of friends, the image is dropped, they can be themselves, which infers only one truth, they are pretending in public, there is an image they wish to portray, and my friends, we have not even yet begun to delve into anything beyond that first impression, for if this first impression is one of seeking the praise of men, of always maintaining an outward appearance of what they perceive a Christian to be, just how shallow is that inward man. If he is pretending on the outside, just what is he like on the inside, if he is concerned with what people see, just what do you suppose they will think when he begins to speak?
I am who I always am, I have no “telephone voice,” I do not modify my manners or speech for the occasion, my demeanor does not change with the circumstances, whether the person I am speaking with lives on the street or in a mansion, I am always who I am. I am told that this is indicative of a man of integrity, my lovely wife says I am too adamant, others may see me as too brutish in the truth, so be it. I see a man who is both completely willing and completely terrified of serving Christ as He wills, I see a servant, nothing more, and a servant is never above his Master. (Matt. 10:24) I see the same possibility of eternal hope in the vagabond, the cast off of society as I do in the one who owns three Ferraris, and I see the same possibility of eternal sorrow and suffering in them both as well.
First impressions should mean absolutely nothing to the born-again believer, we must not look with the eyes of man. All without Christ are wretched, lost sinners, nothing in this world that they own will purchase their entrance into the kingdom of God, and the poorest bum on the street will hold no advantage in his poverty, no mercy will be shown to any who reject Jesus Christ as Lord, all who reject the gift of God in Christ will be cast into eternal darkness, (Matt. 22:13) no matter their status in this world. The same heart in the area of salvation that you may have for the poor is to be shown to the rich, pride is destroying one, despair the other, and the same hope must be offered to them all.
Stop seeking the praise of men with your own standards of the first impressions, stop seeing with the eyes of men, let your dominating character be Christlike. No one on this planet can point to any individual using only first impressions and say with surety, “There is a Christian.” I am me if I am in my robe or in my suit, and I can witness just as effectively in either one. Do not seek the praise of men for the sake of vanity or pride, seek them because they are lost.