Friday, June 25, 2004
We met Gal on an Indian reservation. She wasn't easy to get to know, actually. Gal was a cute black and white dog owned by a missionary couple that our On Eagles' Wings Team was working with on a remote reservation. Most dogs run up to you when you come to the door, even if you're a stranger, and they're usually all over you. Not Gal. She ran the other way and cowered in the corner, no matter how gentle, how friendly you were to her. She just didn't want to come out of her corner for anybody. "Strange dog," I thought. Until her owners explained that Gal had been terribly abused by her first owners. When she saw people, she saw pain.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Everybody's Got a Story."
You couldn't understand the way that dog acted until you knew her story. People are like that, too. You watch how they act, how they treat people, you see that attitude they have, and you say, "Forget you, buddy" or you respond with the same garbage they just dished out to you. But the "make a difference" people in this world, the healers, are the ones who never forget this critical issue in dealing with people: you can't understand the way they act until you know their story. And everybody's got a story.
I remember discovering how wrong I had been about some people in our class in college after many of them poured out their hearts at a senior retreat. Late into the night, people you thought you knew revealed the pain in their background. And suddenly the lights went on and you said, "So that's what I've been seeing all these years!" And you felt badly that you had been responding to them based on their deeds, and never considering the needs behind those deeds.
That's the kind of radical love God is calling you and me to in our word for today from the Word of God in Ephesians 4, beginning with verse 29. He says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs." In other words, don't say things that will tear a person down, only things that will build that person up. Why? Because you're focusing on their needs, not just their deeds. You may hate their deeds, but God's asking you to develop His compassion to respond to the needs that drive their deeds. Whether that person is your child, your spouse, your parent, your friend, your coworker, someone at church.
If you knew their story, you'd understand that they've been made to feel worthless much of their life. So they make choices based on the fact that they're trash. Or maybe they treat other people that same way. Maybe their story includes some awful hurt that has turned them hard so they won't get hurt anymore. Maybe there's some morally dark chapters in their past that can make them critical and legalistic today because they hate what they used to be. They may wound because they've been wounded. Somewhere behind the way they act is a story of a perfectionist parent, trust lost because of abuse, the absence of a father's love, abandonment, failure, tragedy.
So, the Bible says, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger." That's our response to their deeds. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other..." That's how we'll respond if we operate, trying to understand there are needs beneath those deeds; there's a history behind those hang-ups. One thing I can tell you from a lot of years of learning what's really inside people - when a person is hardest to love, they need your love the most! And that's when you ask Jesus to release His love through you because your love just isn't enough. React to their bad attitude or their bad treatment, and you can be just another person who just wounds an already wounded person more. Respond with the mercy and the grace and the compassion of Jesus and you can be part of healing that wounded person. Because everybody's got a story, and you can help write a new chapter.