The leaders of the people were living in Jerusalem, the holy city. A tenth of the people from the other towns of Judah and Benjamin were chosen by sacred lots to live there, too, while the rest stayed where they were. Nehemiah 11:1 NLT
I love living in Florida, but that does not keep me from dreaming of other places. I love reading books and watching documentaries about far-away places. Sometimes late at night when my work is done or even when it’s not, I go on Google Satellite Maps and tour the world. When asked where my favorite places are I respond, “Mostly just the seven continents and all the little islands in between.” I like to go through neighborhoods in Australia and Canada and places in between on street view. It makes me feel like I am really there.
What fascinates me is how far away these places are, yet we are so much alike. A few years ago I was actually in Lima, Peru ,on a mission trip. I was riding in a bus, and at a red light looked down from my window and could not help seeing a professionally dressed lady in her car with a nice wrapped gift package in the front seat. I assumed she had just left work and was on her way to a birthday party. A very similar routine to those of us in the United States, I mused to myself. The only difference was a few thousand miles.
While Lima seemed to be a very modern and wealthy enough city, I visited other parts of Peru that reminded me I was far away from home. One night while walking with friends near our hotel in Chiclayo, we met a young girl sitting on a blanket with her little brother begging for money. We gave her several soles, and she gave us a warm beautiful smile, making us feel richer than we did while the money was still in our hands. Nearby another young nina watched, much too polite to ask, but you could see in her eyes that she desperately needed some soles too. I went over to her and she quickly took my offering and smiled with a “gracias.” I realized while we were on the same planet, I, being a man from the United States, and the two girls begging in Peru were living in separate worlds. Reading all the encyclopedias in the world and visiting Google Maps would never give me a true picture of the world they live in, even tough we share the same moon and sun.
As I write this I can already hear you say, “William you don’t have to cross the sea to find people living in a different world than you. Just cross the railroad tracks!” True. I even read a while back that different siblings perceive their same family so differently based on age and order of birth that it is not even like growing up in the same family. I walk the campus of the school where I help, which has grades pre-k through 12. I realize each classroom is in its own little world. If you asked a pre-k student and a 12th-grader to each draw a picture of their school, you would never be able to tell that both pictures were of the same school, and it’s not just because the 12th-grader is a better artist. They are both in their own world on the same campus. So, yes, you are right. I don’t have to go far to find someone living in a different world than me.
Have you ever looked at a family member who just said something very far out to you, and wanted to ask them, “What planet are you from?” Even though they grew up with you in the same house? Chances are they may have grown up in the same home as you but still from a different “planet” so to speak because of how they perceived the home and neighborhood around them. Today I will be talking to my sister about our childhood memories, and she will remember things I never noticed, while I was paying attention to things she never saw. Same home. Different worlds. That could explain why two siblings can both love each other very much and have many of the same values, while each being their own independent person. One moment they can both be in total agreement about an issue and then on another issue wonder what planet the other one is from.
While our worlds can be very similar in some ways but in another galaxy in other ways, it helps us understand why we can be so different and yet similar. This is why only God can judge us, because only God even knows what world we are living in.
The Lord will record, When He registers the peoples: “This one was born there.” Psalm 87:6 NKJV
And you know what? Only God knows where “there” is. In other words, God is the only one who knows what world you live in. But he knows everything about your world. He understands things our own family members have no clue about! And you know what else? He can change our worlds so fast. It’s been 13 years since my friends and I were walking the streets of Peru. That young girl sitting on a blanket begging for money may still be sitting there. Or she may be at the medical university near my home here in Florida. One day she may save my life at the hospital and then get into her Lexus and drive home. Stranger things have happened. Only God knows. Only God is our judge. Only God needs to know. For the rest of us, let’s just be kind. That’s all we need to know – just be kind.