"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:12-13 (NIV)
Have you ever played the game in which you make up stories about the people in the cars that pass yours? This was a favorite of mine and some of my friends when we were teens. We would fantasize elaborate backgrounds and come up with outlandish scenarios as to where the person was going. Silly? Yes. But as I look back on that game now, I realize that it taught me something valuable. It reminds me that I don't know the details of who any of those people are or what they are living through.
As an adult, I have made an effort to keep that in mind as I go through daily life. I am well aware that we all encounter good days and bad. Each of us struggles with something. If we only knew the story behind the actions others take, I think we would be much slower to judge and much quicker to extend compassion. Here are some examples of what I am talking about.
Your child comes home and tells you about a new student in the class. This child comes in with uncombed hair, wrinkled clothes and sometimes doesn't smell very good. The other children have already begun name-calling and not including this child in recess. Concerned about your own child's well-being, you talk to the teacher and find out that the father in this family left and because the mother had no money to pay the rent, she and her three offspring are living in their car.
On the highway heading to work, you are cut off by a man driving an expensive car. As anger builds, you conclude that he must think he is better than everyone else and deserves the road for himself. He takes the same exit as you do and as you reach the stoplight and pull up next to him, you roll down your window so you can tell him he shouldn't drive that way. He apologizes and explains that he is a single father and was up all night with a very sick child and that if he was late to work his job would be at risk. Then you notice the emblem on the car and realize it is a company vehicle and that he doesn't own it at all.
You and a friend see a woman who is wearing a lot of jewelry and costly clothing. Her hair is perfect, her nails are professionally done and you think she probably lives a life of ease and doesn't have a care in the world. You make a comment to your friend about her that maybe isn't very nice and it turns out your friend knows the woman's story. Her outward look belies what her life is really like. Her husband is rarely home and when he is, he is abusive. Her one child attempted to commit suicide a while ago and is in a long term treatment facility. With no one at home, she shops - a lot.
If we were to do as Jesus would do, how would we handle life differently? If we could see others the way their Creator sees them, how would that change our hearts? We may not be able to have those insights, but we can have the understanding that there are probably things going on in their lives that we would be surprised by. I know there are things in my life that others don't know about. How about yours?
We all need to clothe ourselves in the compassion, patience and gentleness that today's verse references. Any person who crosses our path should be treated respectfully and kindly. Each interaction is a chance to show God's love and just may change someone's day for the better. If we can offer that gift, why wouldn't we?
It is a new year and we have new chances to live our lives for Christ and to make a difference in this world. I pray we take full advantage of those chances and touch hearts and minds for Him as we do. God bless!