Talking with a colleague at a Christian prep school, I was reminded how easy it can be to judge others. Accustomed to the short hairstyles of most of our students, he was offended by the creative haircut of a visiting teen. Challenging his assumptions, I reminded him that our perception of others’ appearance isn’t an accurate way to gauge a mature, spiritual life in Christ.

Made in the image of a God who declared His creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31), we have not only the ability to recognize but the desire to celebrate beauty. But we imitate the world when we trust our perception of appearances instead of seeking the truth (Proverbs 11:22). Whether we intend to or not, when we create our own standards of worth, the way we discern is faulty—leading to wrong views of others and wrong decisions.

James addressed the church’s cultural confusion, one which values worldly success but leaves the heart unchanged, in his letter to the “believers scattered abroad” (James 1:1). James 2:1 identifies the foundation of sure truth: “Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ,” a truth that separates the lifestyle of believers from the world’s favoritism. When Christ is at the center of all we think and do, we begin to see reality, though in part, as He does.

When we’re no longer focused on others’ approval, we can be a part of creating a “kingdom culture” by valuing those who offer us nothing in return (James 2:2-4). Discrimination, especially when based on another person’s appearance, is sin because it not only denies the diversity of all people made in God’s image but it is rooted in a humanistic desire for power and control (James 2:9-10).

Godly discernment, on the other hand, displays both truth and love. And as history and Scripture bear out, we reveal God’s truth best through how we love others (1 John 3:18).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: John 2:1-25