The aftermath of the US Election last week demonstrates how difficult it is for people to see life from someone else’s point of view, especially when they’ve already decided they disagree with them. This becomes almost impossible when emotions from past disappointments are influencing our thinking. It is hard to put yourself in the shoes of another person that you’ve already written off.
Whenever we interact with another person, there is a sense in which we are really interacting with ourselves since every person is made in the image of God and has unchangeable value before him. Intentionally having this disposition towards others is captured in the idea of ‘Loving your neighbour as yourself.’ Trying to calmly see how someone else may have come to be the person they are in the circumstance they find themselves, believing the things that they do, is an exercise of that commandment.
Sentences like “How can they believe that?!” or “I can’t believe they voted
for… !” or “They are the worst kinds of people!” These kinds of statements are expressions of frustration combined with ignorance and come from both sides. With just a few small tweaks in the circumstances of our own lives and upbringings we could easily be ‘that’ person in ‘that’ kind of a place.
Of course, empathising with others does not justify their potential wrongdoing or false beliefs, but it does help us to go beyond ours. We must learn the balance of accepting that people are flawed without denying their underlying and unchanging value before God. We are all flawed, sinful people. We all have beliefs we’ve failed to justify. We all generalise. We all write people off based on a quick glance. And God loves the category of people we easily dismiss.