C. S. Lewis penned these words over three-quarters of a century ago, but their significance is perhaps even clearer today as a result of modern psychology. In the book What Makes Us Tick? The Ten Desires That Drive Us (2013), psychologist and social commentator Hugh Mackay stresses that the primary need of human beings – once the basic biological needs of food, sleep, etc., are taken care of – is “to be taken seriously.” Mackay’s research indicates that knowing we are of worth is more important to human beings than any other psychological need or desire.
Why do we have this need to be taken seriously? We might well be able to survive without it; but as Christians we might well suspect that this, like any need, is there for a reason. Could it be that we all have a deep innate need to be taken seriously in order to help us to take other people seriously? Could it be that is one of the lessons this life gives us opportunity to learn?
The word of God certainly shows that God takes people seriously. When Scripture tells us he is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), it means that he takes everyone seriously. When God repeatedly told ancient Israel to be kind to strangers among them (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19, etc.), he was commanding them to see them as people like themselves – to take them seriously.
And when we look at the life and ministry of Jesus, it is clear that he took people seriously. He took sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors seriously, although most everyone else in that society did not. He took women seriously in an age when most did not. He took Samaritans and Phoenicians – those of entirely different religious backgrounds – seriously, just as he took doubters within his own faith seriously. Uniquely in that age, he even took those who perhaps had no understanding of faith at all – little children – seriously.
In some ways, Jesus’ determination to take everyone seriously was one of the most radical aspects of his ministry and his message, and it is an approach that we who try to follow him must never forget. But do we take those who live contrary to the Way in which we believe seriously? It is a question we can ask of any group, of any individual. Do we take fellow Christians in other denominations seriously? Do we really take those of other political, social, religious, economic, or regional backgrounds to ours as seriously as we should?
Ultimately, we must all ask “Do we take every human being seriously?” It is one of the most fundamental messages within the Scriptures that God takes every individual seriously, and that we should also.