“…to people who think they have the power to read the entirety of another person’s story after a glance in a store aisle, or a report in a newspaper, or a 140-character tweet.”
I ran across this article the other day and, as they often do, this one got me thinking. I decided it was worth passing on, not because I agree or disagree with anything that was said within the post, but because it raised a larger point that I do think needs to be brought up:
Most all of us need to place ourselves in the position of the “other person”—regardless of our thoughts, emotions, points, or valid excuses—because most often, we have no idea the journey that other person is on.
We have no idea their past.
We have no idea their struggles.
We have no idea the turmoils and trauma that have shaped their lives, and placed them in their predicament in the first place; be it homelessness, addiction, theological beliefs, political views, or their general outlook (or lack of) on life.
In fact, fellow author and blogger, Derek Flood, put it this way in a recent post (linked here): “Our experiences shape and form us. They make us into who we are. The good news is that this is not only something that happens in childhood. Experiencing love can also change us as adults in positive ways, just as experiencing trauma as adults can change us in negative ways. Where that connects to theology is that if we think that people are changed merely through information, we are misunderstanding something really basic about how we humans work. People are changed — including changing our minds — by what we experience. Change my heart, and that will surely change my mind.”
As humans we are all born for relationship.
As Christians we are called to “love [our] neighbor…”
We don’t get to pick and choose our neighbors any more than we got to choose to be born. And I’m calling myself out on this issue as well.
None of us gets a pass.
None of us gets to “speak [our] truth in love” until we’ve earned the right to do so.
In fact, that very passage (Ephesians 4:15) is embedded in Paul’s admonition to the church in Ephesus to build up the body of Christ “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…growing and building itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (4:13,16)
Too often we rush to point up the wrongheadedness, the inconsistencies, the flaws and shortcomings, and the “sins”, of one another, without ever bothering with the “whys” and “what’s” and “where’s” and “how’s” of what put the other person in the position or mindset or predicament they’re in in the first place.
Relationship takes time.
Relationship is messy.
Relationship is hard!
And yet relationship is the only way we get to “speak the truth in love” to one another and have that truth heard, respected, and received. Even then, any action the other person takes based on our truth is still theirs, and only theirs, to take. Or not take. (Inaction is still an action. Or, as Rush said it, “Even if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”.)
Our choice, as fellow humans, and especially if we choose to call ourselves “Christian”, is to choose relationship, to choose love. Every time.
If our actions do not flow from a well-spring of love, if our goal is not showing the intentionality of love within our interactions, we—all of us—need to examine our core motives for that interaction.
After all, we can be “right”. Being right does not require an ounce of love. But…doing whatever we do from a place of intentional relationship—from love—will always be right.