About a month ago, a friend took me to Mona, Utah to fly fish for carp. We arrived as the sun was coming up on a beautiful still morning to find thousands of big carp packed into a small collecting pond of the reservoir. It was beyond awesome for the size and numbers of the fish we were catching. I felt like we were in some untouched wilderness that had never seen an angler, rather than being a mile from Interstate 15.
I was back in Utah for a conference recently and on the way home we drove by the reservoir. I was devastated to find it had been completely drained. There were hundreds of thousands of carp lying dead around the empty reservoir. The carcasses were so thick that they literally formed a carpet of carp.1 It was a fish kill of Biblical proportions.2 It was foul and stinky. Most of all it was tragic.
Such a policy come to play because the carp was not esteemed of men. As it turns out the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has plans to make Mona a wiper fishery. 3 These plans made it necessary to kill all the fish in Mona, drain the reservoir and start fresh. That was bad news for the lowly carp.
Now anybody that contrasts the merits of the common carp versus the wiper would probably jump behind the DWR in a heartbeat. Carp are an invasive species that are hard on the natural habitat and threaten native species. They are stinky, ugly and highly unpalatable as a table fish. Not only that, they are smart, and cagy and very hard to catch. When you tally up the points, the common carp comes out slightly above pond scum on the value scale.
This battle was over before it started. Not all fish are equally esteemed in the eyes of men. We have no trouble devaluing the carp and favoring the wiper, or the Bonneville Cutthroat, or the endangered Humpback Chub. It’s quite reasonable and understandable. But it’s all too easy to extend this type of bias to one another. A great example of this human devaluation is illustrated in a quip of the emperor Augustus against Herod the Great. Augustus joked “it is better to be Herod’s pig than son”.4 Though Herod would never consider eating pork, he didn’t seem to have any reluctance about killing his sons if he perceived them as a threat. His pigs were safe; his sons–not so much.
Though nowhere near Herod on the degenerate scale, most of us are well-practiced in the art of forming quick opinions about others based on the relative value scale. Race, religion, gender, physical beauty, socioeconomic rank and nationality have historically been part of well-entrenched checklists that determine relative value as a person. I recently had occasion to drive through a pretty rough part of town and found myself jumping to all kinds of conclusions about the people I saw living under bridges and panhandling for spare change. Lots of things were going through my head, but Christ-like love was not one of them.
Today I was reading the account of Peter’s vision and subsequent meeting with Cornelius in Acts 10, which ushered in the preaching the Gospel to gentiles. As the reality of this truth came to him, Peter said “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” It was not nationality but rather repentance that was the determining factor for Cornelius to receive baptism and membership in the Church. Paul taught the same principles; so did Nephi. Though human perception is riddled with bias, God’s is not.
But to think of God’s view of us as simply unbiased, is to miss the the big picture. He sees past our flaws and is somehow able to not define us by the worst thing we’ve ever done. Add to this His unconditional love, and it becomes difficult fully comprehend. Consider the awe that Jeremiah must have felt when the Lord told him “I have loved thee with an everlasting love”. He sees us differently. God sees us as we may become–not as other men see us. 5
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.6
Our challenge personally is to live up to this pure love that is so devoid of bias and so eternal in its perspective. Hopefully, as we come to experience it, and believe it, we can begin to see others the same way.