That’s the advice of a ’70s pop song. Pretty basic–before we judge, it’s a good idea to find out how the other person sees things.
A few days ago Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was booed for saying, “All lives matter.”
Why would anyone object to that? Of course all lives matter. What’s the problem?
BLACK LIVES MATTER
To many African-Americans, this phrase means much more than a claim that black lives matter equally. If I understand correctly, it’s a demand that others recognize racial injustice and white privilege and the fact the not all lives have historically been understood to matter. When I, as a white person, brush past “black lives matter” too quickly and jump to “all lives matter,” I’m seen, from the other’s perspective, as dismissive.
I haven’t made the effort to see the issue from their shoes and to communicate my understanding.
Of course, none of this excuses shouting or booing or other rude or violent behavior. But with that take on the issue, we only end up with two groups wondering why the other doesn’t understand.
Jesus said it’s up to us to take the first step. He asked us to do something sacrificial, to suspend judgement and step into another person’s story.
Prodigal Son. Woman at the Well. Good Samaritan. Woman Caught In Adultery. In each case the religious establishment expected an outcome based on tradition, judgment, and rigid rules. Jesus invited listeners into the story and showed us an eternal perspective.
It’s not enough to point and say “they did it too!” Of course they did, and with that childish approach nothing ever gets solved. We simply stand on opposite sides and shout at each other.
An Eye For An Eye Leaves The Whole World Blind
The church is here to go first, to love when it’s hard and listen when others won’t. It’s up to us to seek first to understand, even when others won’t, and to communicate our understanding.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. (Psalm 23:5)
Share a meal. Break bread. Step out of your own shoes. Enter their story.
We advance the conversation only when we’re willing to set our ego aside, suspend judgment, and take a few steps in the the other person’s shoes.
Here’s a cool little video that illustrates what this notion of empathy is all about:
Can’t see the video? Click here.
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