For anyone to do life in this world, they have to learn to live with other human beings. Sounds very obviously right? But how many of us actually take time to learn about others, so we can better interact with them? How many of us even care for the "other" so much so that we serve, love and seek to relate to them better? If we can be honest, we tend to put people into our little boxes and want them to "behave" accordingly. To put it more bluntly - some of us are only cool with people when they fit our stereotypes, and when they conform to our expectations of them.
For many of us, we view people as single layered, monolithic beings who are one thing or the other - and this has caused many problems in relationships of all kinds. Those that view life in terms of black and white, and no grey tend to struggle with any existence of complexity in the human condition. And a disregard of this complexity invariably leads to a skewed expression of love or affection for those that indeed are complex. I have personally learned this over time.
Where I grew up, things and people had to either be this or that. People had to either love you, or they hate you. People had to be on your side or not on your side. This left absolutely no room for an actual group of people who were somewhere in the middle.
Maybe some people actually do not love or hate you, maybe they just do not even know you exist.
Maybe some people are not on your side, and not on the other side either, maybe there is a third side which they belong to.
Maybe human beings in their being and making are not as binary as we have hoped that they are.
Maybe we are more complicated than what we actually think we are.
A question I want to tackle at this point is this: are there things that are binary or black and white? Absolutely. I think when we talk about our relationships with God, for example, we either are rocking with Him through His Son Jesus or we are not. Or when we are talking about marital commitment I think you either commit to one spouse, or don't commit at all. There are so many things that are indeed black and white, but in the same sentence I want to say that people's experiences, feelings, emotions, thoughts, views and opinions are way more complicated than that.
Over these past two years I have had to think through this a little bit more. We so often view people and things in very simple terms and hence we are very bad at relating with others. We do not know what to do with people that are confused, complicated and otherwise complex in their views and ideas.
As a believer, I see how such ignorance affects the mission God has called me to: it makes me want to change people who I really and honestly do not love or care for. Many times I see hypocrisy in me in that although I want people to follow Jesus, I sometimes want them to do just for the sake of my own ego, and almost a feeling of "I helped them get it."
But ordinary people are not as black and white and we would like them to be. I see this in myself both before and after Christ. Before I was a Christian I had a sense of the existence of a God, and had heard bits about Him. But also, I really wanted to enjoy my life and be the master of my world. To be more specific, I wanted to change the world. Right before the Lord saved me I wanted to start an organisation called "Outlaw Versatiles" - which would comprise of talented outcasts, basically. People on the margins like me. People overlooked like I thought I was. But who were gifted and talented in various ways. I had huge dreams to change the world. Yet at the same time there was a sense of brokenness that I could not explain. Life felt hard and as such a drag. I was excited on one side, yet broken on another. I loved so much, yet I also hated so much and was filled with years of pilled up anger. I was somewhat talented and gifted yet I longed for approval. I was a complicated person, and I still am.
I walk with the Lord now but I still find war within myself. My flesh wants to go one way, and my Spirit wants another. I relate with Paul's battles in Romans 7 to the tee. If I could be honest, I want peace in the world but sometimes I wish war and destruction upon those I think contribute to the world's problems. If I could be honest I sometimes wish I could be a child again and not know what I know and not see what I see. I am complicated. We all are.
Somehow I love gay people, yet I see their pursuit of same-sex relationships at odds with the created order.
I hate all the stories of abortion I have heard yet I have great empathy and sympathy for people who have gone through with abortion.
I was born way after Zimbabwe became an independent nation and was never a victim of white imperialism but sometimes I cannot help but be filled with rage and anger when I think about how my forefathers were treated less than because of the colour of their skin.
We all are. And so maybe we can learn to love each other at whatever phase in life we are. Maybe we can learn to listen more to each other. Maybe we can ask more questions before we make any conclusions. Maybe we can stop expecting people to have feelings, thoughts and views that are black and white. Because if we are honest, we sometimes exist in grey. Where we learn. Where we wrestle. Where we struggle.
Because the Holy Spirit is who changes people, we can pray, share and do life with people we fundamentally don't understand, but love, for the sake of the gospel, till Christ is formed in them.
Just like he has been formed in us in our complexity.
Will you love people where they are?