I just returned from our summer family vacation. One of the nights we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, and as we chatted with the lovely motherly-type woman who runs the lodging, I commented that she must encounter all types of people. Her response is something I doubt I will ever forget, and something I pondered for the rest of the vacation. She said, “You don’t know what people are carrying around with them. When they go on vacation, they don’t leave it behind, they bring it with them.”
Her words were full of compassion as well as a matter-of-factness that I found clarifying. None of us knows what people “bring with them” to the grocery store, the restaurant, the workplace, or the classroom. We sum up our opinions of folks based on so little, never getting to what Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story.” Many times, since our encounters are with strangers or with more formal acquaintances such as teachers or bosses, we are never able to find out the full story.
Yet regardless of who it is or how they are behaving, we can ask God to meet that person right where they’re at. Instead of making a snide comment about the person, or thinking the worst of someone, I’m trying instead to pray on-the-spot for them, asking God to intervene in their life and put them on the Damascus Road.
God in His Grace is allowing me more and more to see difficult people as lost instead of seeing them the way I am used to seeing them; as people who deserve to be derided. Praying for them doesn’t mean I condone their behavior or excuse it. It simply means I want them called out of their lostness the same way God called me out of my lostness. I want them to be free, finally, of the stuff they bring with them.
“But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-13
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2