Most people know that Jesus was a proponent of loving your neighbour and treating others as you would like to be treated, this is known as the golden rule and it is a belief held in common by Christian and non-christian alike. The art of it is figuring out how to put it into practice, the living of it.
There is a story about Jesus being in a crowded area, he is on his way to heal the a powerful man’s daughter. As he walks a woman who has had an issue involving a flow of blood for 12 years, a woman who has sought every sort of help possible and spent all her worldly wealth to resolve the issue, touches the hem of Jesus’s robe and is healed. He notices this has happened and he stops what he was doing—the important work of heading off to save the daughter of a powerful figure—and talks with the woman. The gospel writer mark then notes, “Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33 emphasis added).
As a pastor I have known many people who have been through medical ordeals, maybe you do too. One thing they have in common is an ability to share every single detail of what happened over the course of several days. I hate to admit it but there are times when it seems too much, when it tests my patience to keep listening. Yet, people are sharing their intimate details at such times. I can only imagine how long the woman spoke after 12 years! Still, Jesus listened, he treated her as he would like to be treated. We all want to be heard.
I was recently in a conversation that was going downhill fast, I could tell heart rates were rising and tension was growing. I was utterly failing to recognize or understand what the other person was trying to tell me, I just couldn’t understand what the problem was in what was being described though the other person clearly saw a problem. As this was happening the other person was reading my body language and feeling dismissed and unheard. It was the sort of conversation that happens all the time, a quotidian misunderstanding with the potential to sour a relationship in a hurry.
Instead we treated each other as we want to be treated. It was tense, it was awkward, it was difficult. I fought to understand them and answer their concern as best I could. They shared their reading of my body language and what not meant for them. This is powerful. Instead of burying it deep inside and permitting it to foment into bitterness and continue the misunderstanding they brought it forward. It felt like a sacred offering.
Sometimes as we seek to love one another we must be willing to listen and listen carefully. We must be willing to speak truth, with care and love, even if it is hard. I am thankful for that conversation and while I hope to keep such conversations with their miscues and potential fireworks to a minimum I pray that more of us would more often have the ability to work through them. When we do we follow the model of Jesus himself.