Hey friends, what a week, huh? If you’re reading this in a year later than 2020, the U.S. has just started a fairly aggressive (especially for us Americans) social distancing policy in response to the Corona Virus. This post is not about all the ways we need to humble ourselves in this current situation. There are many good thoughts out there on that. Instead, I’m going to just share something the Lord has hit me with recently, and hope that it encourages you whether you struggle in the same way that I do.
I like to be right…there, I said it. In fact, it’s been said that I’d rather be right, than be happy, and that is true often. It is an ugly truth. It’s neither one to ignore, be proud of, or accept as simply my temperament. It’s ugly…it’s sinful…it has to die.
Well, if I like to be right, then I especially want to be right about things that are important to me, things that I believe are my areas of “expertise.” So, that may include being right in my thoughts and opinions related to Washington Nationals baseball or, and more importantly, my ideas and stances around Biblical truth and missions. I often like to think that I’m teachable…that is, unless someone is trying to “teach me” when I already know the answer, or so I think.
Recently, I was reading a book by an author who I knew understood God’s Mission in a way different that I do. I believed I was right and he was wrong. I’m not saying having opinions on important matters is the problem. It’s not. You SHOULD have a well-formed, well thought about opinion about important things. We’d be fools otherwise. But, as I read, two things happened.
First, as this author was making his argument, I noticed all the footnotes in this book. I’m the type of reader who reads every, single footnote. I hate end-notes…they are the worst, and you’ll never change my mind about that! 😉 As I read the book and the footnotes, I kept thinking, “Interesting, I haven’t read that book,” and “Oh, that sounds like an interesting book!” As these began to pile up, all of a sudden, it was as if the Lord was nudging me with this idea:
It’s OK to disagree with this brother, but you’d be a fool to discount his hard work, his research, his understanding. What if you read this book to see what you can learn instead of whether he’s going to agree with you?
Second, as that happened, as my attitude towards this author and his book became one of teachability, I was able to see a couple of things. First, his view was much more nuanced that I was giving him credit for. I have been painting those with whom I disagree with too broad of strokes. Second, I started to see areas where we did agree AND even ideas that were meaningful for me which I hadn’t thought about before. I began to benefit from this author’s hard work and his articulation of his stance on the issue.
Do I still disagree with him on the question he was considering? Yes. But, my own understanding has grown, and I’m learning to love and respect my brother in Christ. What if I took more satisfaction in having my own view strengthened or even changed (because if I am wrong, the best thing for me would be to be corrected!), than I do in reading as an outright antagonist?! What if I approached mission research this way? What if we, as a culture, approached books/articles on parenting and politics this way (or whatever other hot button topic)?
This doesn’t mean compromise on truth. We hold Scripture as God’s Word. We hold the Christian faith as delivered through the ages. I’m not talking about watering down our theology. I’m talking about the areas of life and society where we don’t necessarily have a clear word from Scripture, where we’re all trying to apply principles from His Word as faithfully as we can, where perhaps no one has definitive input for us. Maybe we start with the areas we ought to know better than act like experts…here’s a great example! But, we can move into other areas…areas where we may have enough information to have an opinion and maybe those where we have some expertise. Would you rather be right than a little wiser? Would you rather win the argument than to grow as a human? Would you rather beat others down with your brilliance than be happy?