Sunday, May 27, 2012

Explaining Your Neighbor's Actions in the Kindest Way Possible


 I want to talk about Martin Luther for a minute.  Nope, I don't mean Martin Luther King, Jr.  I mean Martin Luther who was a theologian and reformer in the 1500's.  


Actually, this post is not so much about him but it is about one of the things I learned from his teaching.  He was an interesting guy and an important historical figure.  He certainly was not perfect but he was passionate about making the gospel available to everyone.  During a time in history when the average person didn't have access to a Bible, Martin Luther helped by producing crib notes.  OK, not really but Luther's Small Catechism is kind of like that.  

On to what's on my mind...

In Luther's Small Catechism there is a part that comes to my mind often, sometimes really often.  The part I am referring to is his explanation of the 8th Commandment, the one that tells us we aren't supposed to lie (bear false witness) about our neighbors.  Biblically, a neighbor is pretty much anyone around you.  I think we all know that lying isn't right.  Luther, however, goes on to say we should not just refrain from lies but we should also explain our neighbor's actions in the kindest way possible.  What?  That's asking a lot!

Explaining your neighbor's actions in the kindest way possible is very difficult and perhaps goes against my very nature.  My first instinct might be to point out my neighbor's flaws, maybe hoping it will make me look better by comparison.  Of course that doesn't really work but still, it is a human tendency.  

I have noticed, though, that when I start making myself at least try to explain someone's bad behavior in the kindest way possible, I become less judgmental.  I start to understand them just a bit.  For example, I might notice that the young woman who was just a bit pushy has 4 little kids tugging on her.  Or perhaps the gentleman that scowled at me had a tummy ache.  Maybe the teenager who was rude had just broken up with her boyfriend.  See?  It's not that hard when you give it a go.  Be creative!

Probably you all do this all the time anyway, and the problem is mine alone.  In a world where we are made to believe we should fight for our rights, push our way to the top, teach them a lesson, stand strong against opposition, etc.  I am glad for a reminder from the 1500's of a different way to go through this life.  I want to try to be better at explaining my neighbor's actions in the kindest way possible.