A friend gave me permission to tell you this story that happened to her recently.
She and her family were getting parked at a big-box store; they’d pulled into a space, and someone was about to pull out of the space in front of them, so they prepared to advance in order to be able to drive out of the space instead of backing out – makes good sense, and keeps the insurance people happy!
Trouble is, not seeing her vehicle, someone decided to pull into the space they were advancing into. My friend and her family backed up, graciously, and got out of the car to go into the store. Her son stared intently at the other driver, who became confrontational. The other driver shouted at the young man to stop staring at her.
His parents said, “It’s okay, really.” The other driver became quite belligerent about it, until, finally, young man’s father said, “He’s autistic.”
The driver gave a quick shock apology. Everybody moved on.
In the store, however, the driver encountered my friend, hugged her, and apologized profusely. “We live in fear. We don’t know how people will act toward us.” She had felt threatened by the stares from the young man.
This driver was a woman of Islamic faith.
Mic drop number two.
She told my friend, “I couldn’t sleep tonight if I did not apologize. I wouldn’t want to treat others the way I feel I am treated.”
Then, as she walked back to her cart, she saw my friend’s husband and son, and she apologized to them, too, and they spoke at length. “Lately,” she said, “everyone is living in fear and judging us.”
This isn’t just one of those parking lot rage stories that had a happy ending. There is a lesson for us all here, a multi-faceted lesson. There is more to it than this, but at the very least we are called not to judge a book by its cover. That was a lesson for both the autistic young man and the Islamic woman. Beyond that, though, it is a lesson for us all, at the very least, to be kind to one another – even, and perhaps especially, people who seem different, or dress differently, or hold views that are different from our own.
Jesus may have told us not to judge, but he didn’t mean that we should check our brains at the door. We are to judge to discern; we are not to judge to condemn. We can judge for discernment in a manner that honours another person as a human being made in God’s image, even if that person’s views or lifestyle or what-have-you varies greatly from our own, without condemnation.
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7.12, NLT).
If you want to see a great example of how we can look at others differently, watch this video.