Encountering our shared humanity is uncomfortable at times. Several years ago, I, along with my then preschool aged two children, made a routine trip to the grocery store. As I pulled into my parking space, I suddenly realized my error. If you have ever hit or bumped into another car, you know the instant whirlwind of unnamed emotions that swirl through your being as you realize that your car has made contact with another object. In my case, no one was inside the shiny, flawless red truck with which my minivan made contact.
Realizing my mistake, I backed up and pulled into the parking spot. Reluctantly, I opened my door and walked around to survey the damage. The trucks surface now sported a white scratch along the side. My car did not appear damaged. But I was a complete wreck.
A combination of guilt, fear and regret competed for attention in my mind. My heart raced. And in the midst, my children’s naive understanding of these type of incidents resulted in utterances declaring their fears. “Are you going to jail?”
After reassuring them that I would not be put in jail, we waited. I figured the owner would probably be out soon and would prefer to confront the awkwardness of violating another person’s possession in person. After about 20 minutes (which seemed like an hour) the owner came out. My heart raced. How would he react?
So I exited my car, came around to the other side and explained what happened. To my surprise, he calmly looked at the scar on his new looking truck and then at me. “It’s really not a big deal. I can rub it out when I get get home.”
What just happened? Certainly he would have been justified in asking for some way of repairing his vehicle. I would have obliged. Yet, he offered me mercy that felt undeserved, I know nothing about him. But perhaps, he recognized that we walk a delicate dance in our humanity. We need each other yet we violate each other. Intentionally or not. Some consequences have greater implications than others. Recognizing our common humanity allows us to step back and see ourselves in each other.
Loving my neighbor requires seeing myself as one who has the potential to be both the offender and the offended. While there is no one size fits all solution to those moments on either side, in all things we can point to the character of our shared Creator who is in them all.
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