By Dr. Harold Sala
Treat others as you want them to treat you. Luke 6:31, Living Bible
There is an old Indian proverb that says no one has the right to criticize another until he has walked a mile in his moccasins. It’s the same principle that Jesus articulated so clearly when he said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Every major religion in our world has a paraphrase of this as a guide for humankind, yet how seldom do we really stop to consider what difficulties, what pain, what stress others are facing. Consumed with our problems, our cares and difficulties, we seldom ask, “If I were in his shoes, would I be doing things any differently?”
Ponder the words of a prayer which recently was circulated on the Internet by an anonymous person who understood the importance of being slow to judgment.
“Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and was rushing
home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a
few precious moments with her children.
“Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.
“Remind us, Lord, that the scary-looking bum, begging for money in
the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
“Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.
“Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not just to those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, showing patience, empathy and love.”
In a sentence, what this penitent was praying is that God would help him to love people as they are without having to change them into something lovable; something which he is comfortable with; someone who reflects our values, our culture, and our social status.
Scientists are now telling us that there is some evidence which supports the theory that life is in your brain– not your heart, and while the jury is still out on that one, one thing is clear: your heart is what controls your likes and dislikes, and determines what you love and hate, and only as God changes your heart and touches your life with compassion will you respond with kindness, with patience, and with understanding. Those, said Paul, are manifestations of the outworking of God’s Holy Spirit, which he calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” The Bible says that out of the heart flow the real issues of life, which also cause us to view our neighbor with understanding instead of viewing his roughness with scorn.
What the world needs today, no matter where you are or what your status in life may be, is to look beyond ourselves and see others as God sees them. The great change in the world begins with individuals, with you and me, and from our small world can spread to the other six billion people who inhabit Planet Earth.
Resource reading: Matthew 7:1-12.