“Jesus said, ‘Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some [fish].’ So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net.” John 21:6 (CEB)
A Native American Proverb states, “Never criticize others until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins.” This is something I try to do as much as possible, and I preach it often. Do I always succeed in following my own advice or the advice of our Native American teachers? No, but I keep on trying. I really wish people would begin to do this more often. Sometimes I think we become so caught up in our own needs, wants, and demands that we really don’t walk in someone else’s shoes.
In the scripture passage above, we are reminded that Jesus appeared to the disciples following his resurrection and continued to teach them to look at things from a different perspective. From what I understand, the fishers of his day would throw their nets over the left side of the boat because the catch was always better on that side. For some reason they “had always done it that way,” so they didn’t even think of casting the net to the right side.
When they followed Jesus’ instructions, they were able to bring in a huge catch. It was at that point in the story that Peter realized it was Jesus and swam ashore. That was a pretty interesting thing for him to do given that he had denied Jesus three times and hadn’t been able to apologize once he discovered that Jesus had been raised from the dead! Jesus eventually takes Peter aside and asks him three times if he loves him, to which Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus instructs him to “Feed his sheep,” “Tend his sheep,” and “Feed his sheep.” Forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, commissioning.
Jesus had a way of being able to walk in another person’s shoes. He could understand their situation and help them to see things from a different perspective. He never compromised his own mission and ministry to accommodate their “agendas.” Rather, he entered into their lives and walked with them so they could find their way, could receive healing, and be encouraged. Jesus does the same with us.
We don’t walk alone. Jesus walks with us, not only through the power of the Holy Spirit, but also through companions who are on the journey with us. So, isn’t it remarkable that we continue to forget to look at things from each other’s perspectives. Criticism comes when someone thinks we aren’t doing things the “right way” which more often than not is “their way.” I wish we could consistently think about what the other person is feeling and try to enter into their perspective. Maybe our lives would be so much better because we are respecting and caring about others rather than ourselves.
Of course, we don’t need to be a door mat for someone who will not respect us, but we can try to understand what is going on with them and act (or react) accordingly. That, to me, is looking at the other side of things and following in Jesus’ example.
What are the ways we can become more aware of “walking a mile in the other person’s moccasins?”
In what ways can we make a positive difference to someone else by doing so?
How do we model Jesus’ respect for others by doing so?
Maybe we will make the world a better place when we ponder these questions and look at things from a different side. May it be so!