“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Tears from loss have such potential to draw us together.
I saw this a few years ago when I participated in some peace talks in Israel with women between whom others said peace wasn’t possible.
They were divided in their religious beliefs, their national narratives and their politics.
But these women all knew loss and deep sorrow. They had been wounded in the most painful ways. Their loved ones had been killed — some fighting for their beliefs and others caught in the crossfire.
I stared into the dark eyes lined with sorrow seated beside me. Our worlds were seemingly nothing alike. She wore a burka. I wore jeans. We didn’t speak with the same accent. We didn’t attend the same kind of place of worship. We didn’t eat the same kinds of food or discuss the same kinds of issues among our friends.
She held a folded photograph in her hand. So much sadness looked back at me. “She was my only daughter. She was beautiful. She was shot twice.” I reached out and took her hand. She unfolded the picture, and I was shocked to see how young her daughter had been.
The lady on the other side of me held a totally different narrative about the same country’s issues. She wore a wig and a skirt that went almost to her ankles. We didn’t speak with the same accent. We didn’t attend the same kind of place of worship. We didn’t eat the same kinds of food or discuss the same kinds of issues among our friends.
She held a small frame in her hand. So much sadness looked back at me. She’d lost her husband. I reached out to take her hand.
Differences made for dividing lines all around the room. Dividing lines that spanned back generation upon generation.
But there we were, hand in hand. A circle of divided women so very united by our tears. We’d all experienced deep, devastating loss.
And in the commonality of our loss, we found a peace that others said would be impossible. We weren’t there to solve the problems of politics. We weren’t there to debate who was right. We were there just to talk as humans. As fellow carriers of sorrow.
We took time to listen. We were slow to speak. And after everyone had time to share, we spent the rest of the afternoon making fruit jams together.
I guess political analysts might say we didn’t accomplish much by the world’s standards that day. But they would be wrong. What I saw in that peace talk was so beautiful.
But there’s another side to pain that is brutal.
It’s when we don’t allow the pain to make us more compassionate toward others but rather more convinced than ever that others are out to get us. We don’t reach out with understanding. Instead, we lash out, multiplying into other people’s lives the hurt that’s been done to us.
Show me a snarky or hurtful comment on social media, and I promise the person who wrote it is suffering from loss. And the last thing that will ever fix them is for us to attack them back. Compassion for their loss and grace for their pain doesn’t validate what they say. It just honors the reality they are more than their hurtful comment. It’s choosing to live out our key verse: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
At the end of that day, we unanimously voted to give the women in burkas the money from the sale of the jam we’d made. All could have made a case for being the ones who received it. But as we got to know one another through the commonality of our tears, we voted simply for who needed the money the most. No one said the word forgiveness. They didn’t have to. It was there. And everyone knew it.
It was more than a win for just that situation; it was a vote for what compassion and forgiveness can accomplish within the human race. This wasn’t declaring anyone right. It was simply extending compassion where compassion was needed. It was the most beautiful sermon about what is possible with God that I’ve ever experienced.
If it was possible for them, I’m believing it’s possible for me and you.
But it starts with us living the message of Jesus’ life — forgiveness. It was the declaration of His death as He uttered, “… Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a, NIV). And even more, it is the proclamation of every saved soul: “I am forgiven. Therefore, I must forgive.”
Father God, sometimes I forget we all have tear stains on our pillows. Keep reminding me that every person I come across needs compassion. And I might be the only one in their life right now who has the chance to help and the courage to care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (NIV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
How can acknowledging the hurt others have suffered help us be more compassionate? When have you seen a willingness to show compassion that reaches across dividing lines? Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2021 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
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