By Chie Lee
When I was a freshman, I had a couple of good friends at NWC who were not Christian. One day, one of them shared her story with me because she was so hurt. She shared with me that she had told a classmate that she was not a Christian, and the classmate’s response was “Oh… Really? I am sorry that you are not saved”. After she shared her story with me, she said, “People are nice here, but often I feel like they treat me differently and don’t completely accept me.”
I said “no”. I told her that I loved who she was and that she was so worthy to me and other close friends she had made at NWC, including Christians, who treasured her and whom she treasured.
At the same time, I could not defend the “many Christians” that she referring to and say, “No, no, no! Christians never do that to non-Christians! You don’t have to worry because it was just miscommunication.” I knew that often Christians pity non-Christians because they don’t believe in the Christian God. I knew that often, unintentionally or intentionally, Christians dehumanize non-Christian people and see them as a target or project to evangelize.
For these reasons, I could not say, “That is just a miscommunication.” I wish I could.
I have seen Christians (myself included) confuse pity with love. Who am I to pity someone while I myself am deeply broken before God? God’s invitation to us is so much more than pity – God’s invitation to us is to love, which is mutual and empowering. The pity that I am talking about here (I would call it “broken pity”) has the potential to greatly harm or sometimes even take away people’s dignity because this pity is not mutual but rather exclusive and looks down on others. This broken pity can lead to powerlessness or worthlessness. This story of my friend is one of the consequences of broken pity.
I believe in the love of God. I could not be here without that love. Jesus, my Lord and Savior, came down to earth from heaven. He chose to stand on the same ground that I stand on. He is the one who has been telling me, “I walk beside you” in every season of my life. This love empowers me. His love gives me dignity and worthiness. God is the one who gave me love instead of broken pity. And this is the love that I believe in. The love that walks besides me.
God came down from a higher place because He is God. But we are human, so there is no place for us to go up or down. Christians often say, “we should love others like Jesus did,” meaning Christians should “come down” (assuming that we are at the higher place) for the sake of OTHERS in order to love. That is broken pity.
We are all God’s creation and we stand on the same ground. That is why we need to learn how to humbly walk beside each other, no matter what our similarities or differences are.
I have learned and grown so much from I walking beside people who are not Christians. Non-Christian people have kindly walked beside me in mutual relationship, helping me engage my own Christian faith in a beautiful way. When I was struggling with the gap between God’s love for us and our broken love for others I told my friend that I wanted to quit being a Christian. It was this non-Christian friend who told me “You SHOULD NOT say something like that.” It was my non-Christian friends who asked me good questions about Christianity, questions that I had never asked myself. It was my non-Christian friends who taught me how to have respectful and fruitful conversations, all the while believing in different things. More than anything, I learned so much from my non-Christian friends’ character and
attitudes in this Christian community. They have told me that they are thankful for their experiences in a Christian community and for the close Christian friends they made at NWC. They are some of the most respectful, strong, and kind people that I have ever known.
It was when there was no broken pity in our relationship that I could meet these people. I could meet these people and learn from them when we mutually walked beside each other. And this is the love that God has showed me in my life.