We have just completed a gruelling 2 hour session of mediation with our neighbours regarding their trees which are a danger to us and to our property. After clearly pointing out the detrimental effect their trees have on our lifestyle, (resulting in some heated discussion), at the end of the session, they still could not or would not see things from our perspective. Only grudgingly did they agree to some of our requests.
Recently I had a ‘discussion’ on Facebook with a lady regarding an environmental issue. I suggested that she not limit her argument to what she had written but include my suggestion as well. Instead of reading and comprehending what I had written, she attacked my suggestion and threw in a ‘red herring’. Not content with that, I wrote a reply using different wording but containing the same content and once again she attacked what I had written. So I wrote again, and it was only then that she took notice of what I had written and finished the discussion with ‘we are both on the same side’.
Probably what concerned me most though, was a post on Facebook which read ‘Call for a vote of no confidence and Tony Abbott’s resignation’. In other words, if I don’t agree with the current government then it should be changed to suit my agenda. Wrong! Australia is a democracy and voting at the ballot box is how we change a government.
These incidents (and a few others of late) highlight to me the need to ‘stand in someone else’s shoes’ or, see things from another’s perspective. It is very easy to have a closed mind and not bother to listen to the other person’s point of view. I find it mind boggling that the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day could not see Jesus for whom he claimed to be. Even if they chose not to believe his claims, surely they could see that Jesus was no ordinary man. Yet they were blind to him and his message because they were so caught up with their own ideas and the keeping of their idea of the law or their religious beliefs.
One incident in the gospels is a good reminder for me not to criticise how people perceive Jesus. The woman who had spent all her money hoping for a medical cure only wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, believing that if she could do this she would be healed. My first reaction is pure superstition – Jesus’ clothes were not magic – yet Jesus showed his love for her in her need, meeting her where she was. In fact he praised her for her faith. I know what I might have been thinking at the time and I am sure it would not have been nearly as loving as Jesus’ reaction, because her actions would not have fitted into my doctrine on faith.
It is very comforting to work things out in our minds and think we have the right answer or even all the answers; we can be very sincere but sincerely wrong. The horrific conflict in Iraq today is based on conflict between different sects of the same religion, both of whom think that each is right. I hate to think of the consequences of that conflict as the news to date is shocking.
And then I go back to the Bible and see change which is so encouraging. The disciple John was nicknamed ‘Son of Thunder’ but that name has absolutely no bearing on the John who wrote the 3 letters about love, in the New Testament. What a gentle giant he became. Those letters are packed with references to how much God loves us, and how we should love others, starting with 1 John 4:19 “We love him because he first loved us”. God’s love helps us to see things from another’s perspective and it is through our display of love for others that God’s love is made visible in this world.
So, do we have to agree with others’ point of view? No, but seeing where they come from or ‘standing in their shoes’ gives us a gracious understanding from their perspective. In so doing, we demonstrate the love of God, and in some instances that may even mean that we have to change our outlook. Wouldn’t that be a surprise!