It’s amazing how often we hurt each other. Often we do it on purpose, out of anger and irritation or lack of sleep and grumpiness. Sometimes though we do it without even realising. We get caught up in how we are feeling and in what is going on in our own world and maybe don’t take the time to look outside of ourselves and see how the people around us are also feeling. Quite often the people we hurt aren’t even people we know that well. Maybe we are grumpy and short with a check out worker in the supermarket who isn’t going fast enough for us. Maybe we are having a bad day and take it out on the lady in the post office. Perhaps we have had some bad news and so when the lady in the coffee shop doesn’t get our order right we bite her head off. In the moment it may seem insignificant to act like this towards a stranger whom we probably wont meet again. Their life doesn’t impact ours so what harm can it do? However, whilst these people maybe aren’t a member of our families or friendship circles, they are some bodies family, some bodies friend, and whilst you may never see them again it doesn’t change the fact that it does cause harm and they will be effected. Maybe they were having a bad day themselves and our short comment was enough to send them home in tears. Or perhaps they are feeling so grumpy themselves after being hurt by us that they go out and do exactly the same thing to the next person they meet and so the cycle keeps growing.
Our lives are intertwined everyday with so many different people, some of whom we know and love and some of whom we will never lay eyes on again, but they all matter and how we interact with each of them matters. And right here is the epicentre the issue of human rights. If we valued each others lives as much as we valued our own lives then this blog wouldn’t exist and whilst that might mean I would have a bit more time on my hands, wouldn’t that be an incredible thing! I am not saying that each and every one of us are responsible for the horrendous human rights problems that our world is faced with, but I do believe that if we could all spend more time thinking about our interactions with one another that this would create a new level of positive interaction that would evolve. Human traffickers are people who do terrible wrongs and they have to take responsibility for their actions, yet I wonder if the reason they get into such an unpleasant world of pain and abuse is because they don’t know what love it? Maybe they have never experienced it, never felt it deep in their souls and so they have no comprehension of its value? I am sure it can’t be an explanation for every human trafficker out there but it’s a generally accepted truth that those who receive abuse go onto abuse, because it becomes a learned pattern of behaviour and a person that is starved of love won’t necessarily have the capabilities to treat others with love. So that suggests that the more love a person does experience, the more likely they are to share it with others. It probably sounds too simplistic and a bit airy fairy but the fact is that the reason human trafficking exists is because life isn’t valued highly enough. People all over the world have given the human life a price tag and a pretty low one at that. As I wrote about before Christmas there are slave markets it Lebanon that sell people for $400 which isnt even the cost of an iPad. Even the NHS don’t pay out a huge amount if a life is lost due to medical error, yet life is priceless isn’t it? It is precious, it is beautiful, it is a gift. So who are we then to put a barcode on it?
Then there are the occasions when people who know one another and love one another fall out and no matter what happens, no matter how big or small the issue, they just don’t seem to be able to get past it. The result? A great deal of sadness, anger and hurt and very rarely is it just those two people who experience these emotions. It seeps out and effects other loved ones and friends and people start taking sides or feeling torn down the middle, pulled one way and then the other and once again, the cycle grows. And it doesn’t just grow because of the other people that get drawn in, it grows just through those two peoples experience and how damaged they are by it and how it effects them in their future relationships with others. And what is it all for? Because saying “sorry” feels too hard, saying “I love you” gets choked in the back of our throat and we feel too frozen by our anger to extend a hug. Families get torn apart by such circumstances, friendship groups fall apart, governments break down and all because we are too proud to back down.
Yet whether we are being grumpy with a stranger or falling out with a loved one, these things go against what God has designed us for. 1 Corinthians 12 describes so clearly that we were made to be one body, each a different yet very valuable part. “As it is, there are many parts, but one body” 1 Corinthians 12 v 19.
And every part has an important role to play and not one part is more important than the other. “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.” 1 Corinthians 12 v 21-23. This is why it is so important that we think about the way we interact and treat one another, because at the end of the day we are all connected here on earth, our lives are all intertwined (“it’s such a small world isn’t it?!”) and how we treat one another is important because it creates a domino effect that spreads much further than just ourselves. And it isn’t even just for us to be thinking about in personal relationship terms, but in the things that go on in the work place right up to the way in which governments interact and function.
The image of the body and its many parts is in fact just as kind and loving as it is wise and challenging. For instance, our little toe spends very little time (in fact probably none whatsoever!) with our ears. They are two parts of the body that have very little reason for being in contact with one another. They have very clear and different purposes and they can get on without seeing each other very happily, yet they are still part of the same body and they are still there for each other if needed. For instance an inner ear problem (which may only happen once in a life time to some of us) would cause balance issues and we can’t balance without our little toes, so in this situation they would be working super hard to keep us standing! The body of Christ, as in Gods people, also don’t always need to come into contact, sometimes through inevitability (i.e location) and sometimes through choice (i.e different personalities), but they are still part of the same body, just as important, just as needed and were the little toe and the ear to ever meet we would hope that they would shake hands and exchange some niceties, maybe even a hug, before resuming their usual path. Possibly even sharing some insights and wisdom from their own personal experiences, but just because they don’t know each other doesn’t mean they can’t show the other love.
One the other hand the hands and the face, whilst not directly linked, often come into contact. Maybe to scratch an itch, wipe a smudge (or a bit of jam!) away, or to discreetly pick a…….well, you know. These are two body parts that once again have very different purposes and uses but which regularly come into contact. They have their individual jobs but work alongside one another effectively and well when needed.
God has chosen where He wants us to be in accordance with all His other people and He has done it just as He sees right. Our job is to then follow His will and work together, sometimes with gusto and excitement, delighting in the moment, sometimes quietly and seamlessly, head down and determined, sometimes maybe with uncertainty and seeking guidance, but always treating one another with respect and kindness, learning and listening to what the other one has to say.
Sadly, sometimes it just doesn’t feel possible, try as we might, to fix our human situations but in those moments isn’t the best thing that we can do to end with a kind word, a word of love and a feeling of peace so that it doesn’t breed further bad feeling and negativity? Letting the other go without animosity or anger, choosing to forgive and moving on, but before doing so saying, “Good luck”, “take care”, “we did our best”, “I still love you”. In fact, if we did choose to say those things maybe there’s a chance we wouldn’t be walking away from each other anymore, but turning round and moving back together.
Sometimes the day feels too hard, other people seem too difficult and we just feel too tired and stressed to be nice, yet try as we might, we CAN actually change this situation. We can choose to stand in check and hold our tongue before the grumpiness comes stomping out, we can choose to take a deep breath and swallow that sharp word and we can choose instead to smile. A smile it literally all it takes in that moment to stop the domino effect of anger and upset. I would like to clarify that I am not saying that each and everyone of us is perpetually unpleasant and angry, just that it is very easy not to think before we act and before we speak and not think about the consequences of those actions and because of this we might be causing far more harm each day than we even realise.
The other amazing thing about the body is its ability to heal and support itself in suffering and pain. If one set of muscles are damaged or strained then a whole load of other muscles step up a gear to try and help. This might mean that this other muscle group also feels under pressure and stress but it doesn’t stop it from tirelessly working to keep the body functioning as best as it can. So let’s be on the look out for an opportunity when we can use our muscles to support and provide, even if it means shouldering a little strain, in order that we are working to see the big beautiful body God has given us thrive. In short, let us be unified. Yesterday I put a vlog out about the story of the feeding of the five thousand and how this little innocent boy who had just two fish and five loaves, offered them up to Jesus and from that little basket of food Jesus was able to feed five thousand people. The aim of the vlog was to say that even though it may seem too difficult for us to try and fix the troubles of this world, we nevertheless all have five loaves and two fish that we are able to offer up to God to feed His people. How about we make one of those loaves kindness, another patience and another love. I’m sure you know what your other loaves and fishes look like and I am sure they taste absolutely delicious.