The other day, in two separate conversations with two different people, there emerged a common topic. To put it very simple and straightforward, it was the topic of how we need to be very cautious concerning the negative opinions we are tempted to form of others. First, we should not do so because we are admonished in Scripture not to judge. Second, most of the time, most of us, really have no idea what others have been through in their lives which has deeply formed them as an individual.
While sin is sin and it is never to be taken lightly, given a pass, or shrugged off for any reasons, sometimes having an adequate understanding of what someone has seen, experienced, and endured in their lifetime can be very eye-opening, heart-softening, grace-motivating, and empathy-inducing. Often, when you become keenly aware of their story, you are amazed and shocked at what many of the people you sit next to during worship services or even have known for many years have endured in their lives. We underestimate the extent of brokenness and sin that we all share.
After pastoring at Hope for many years, someone asked me what key things I had learned. Without too much thought I quickly answered, “Nothing surprises me.” You see, over the years, I had heard so many stories of pain, abuse, neglect, cruelty, stupidity, arrogance, and exploitation that even though the names and details were changed, the tune of the havoc and pain caused by sin often sounded the same.
In fact, often times, when I hear what others had to endure, even though they may still have many problems, I marvel they have turned out and cope so well. I am surprised, even though many still have issues, they are so well adjusted. I don’t remember the exact quote but once I read how for some people they are so damaged that it takes them more energy to get through one day than it takes me to get through a month. We would do very well to remember these things as we meet and love others in the name of Jesus.
Brennan Manning has written, “Some of us have been so traumatized by life that simple survival one day at a time is our sole concern. Others have been so soiled by circumstances, scarred by physical and emotional disabilities, or bruised and battered by the vagaries of life that they are barely able to look beyond their own need.” Jesus said in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
We would do very well with the help of Jesus and the aid of the Holy Spirit to be kind, compassionate, gentle, and loving with all we meet. As has been said, “Be kind for every person you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” True!