None of us can live or fully experience or understand the life situation of another person. We may have insights, make intuitive guesses or identify with an experience that they have had; however, it is not living their life.
Part of recognising that we are part of the body of Christ is to grow in sensitivity to other people through listening and appreciating their individual experience. Part of the challenge of doing this is to suspend our ideas, thoughts and opinions so that they experience us as empathetic, compassionate and gracious.
When we do this and become closer to another, both of us are changed by the experience. One experiences grace through being understood, and the other is humbled through being trusted. Doing this is not always easy. It may be that we are responsible for the particular experience having happened, or we may disagree with the interpretation of the particular event, and feel the need to correct or disagree.
The struggle of the Indigenous people in Australia is a case in point. How do we interpret the journey of Australia since colonisation in light of its impact on the Australian Aboriginal peoples? We can avoid thinking about this and not listen, or we can stop and pause to listen. Such listening is painful; it does cause discomfort and we may want to avoid it. When we listen, though, something deep changes in us and in the persons listened to. We grow closer, and a bond of respect is established. We are connected as part of one family under God.
During this year IMA will be collating some resources for local churches to aid in the ways we understand local Indigenous stories in regard to the location of the particular church. Such a process is much more than a sign on a wall (though that is a good step) as it takes us into the experience and story of the local people. One result of doing this will be the affirmation that we know them and they know us. In such relationships healing is possible and hope grows that the future for Australia will be healthier than the past.