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Posts Tagged ‘Christians who are wrong’

Do you always have to be right?

I know the temptation all too well.

In my first pastorate, I visited shut-ins, and one day, I visited Cecil and Freda.

Due to their age, they rarely came to church, and Cecil told me that he said the Lord’s Prayer every day.  But he had a bone to pick with me.

Cecil said that when I read or said the Lord’s Prayer, I said, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  But Cecil wanted me to know that it was really in earth as it is in heaven, not on earth.

I took out my pocket New Testament, and Matthew 6:10 said “on earth,” not “in earth.”  (When in doubt, let Scripture decide.)

But doggone it, Cecil had been saying the Lord’s Prayer for many years, and he was saying it the right way, and everybody else – even Bible translators and his pastor – were wrong.

What can a young pastor do?  I just smiled and changed the subject.

In that instance, I was wise.  But on another occasion, I was anything but.

I once visited a newly-married couple in their home after they had visited our church the previous Sunday.

While we were chatting, the woman blurted out, “But all sins are equal in God’s eyes, right?”

I should have let it go … I should have let it go … but I didn’t.

I gently explained what I believe Scripture teaches: that any and every sin will condemn us before a holy God, but that some sins are definitely worse than others in this life.  (For example, uncontrolled anger and murder are both sins, but murder is far worse than uncontrolled anger.)

But this couple had come from a church background where they had heard the phrase “all sins are the same before God” and my little two-minute explanation wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

They never came back to the church … and I needed to learn that I didn’t always have to be right.

How many conflicts in this world occur because people insist that they’re right and the other party is wrong?

How about Israel and the Palestinians?

How about Democrats and Republicans?

How about creationists and evolutionists … or global warning proponents and skeptics … or those who welcome illegal immigrants and those who don’t?

In the same way, many conflicts in churches occur because some people … even pastors and church leaders … have to be right all the time.

They have to be right about every nuance of theology … the proper interpretation of tough passages … the color of the nursery … and how long the pastor preaches.

And even when they violate Scripture, they still insist they’re right … and that those who disagree with them are wrong.

But Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

You can know a lot … and be right nearly all of the time … and yet do it all with a prideful heart … and so be very much wrong.

Let me offer three thoughts about “being right”:

First, it’s right to take and present a position.

My wife recently did some redecorating for her home preschool.  She asked me what I thought.  I told her what I really felt … once.

She listened … countered with a few ideas of her own … and that was that.

I stated my position and then dropped the matter.  Since it’s her preschool, she needs to make the final decision.

There would be far fewer conflicts in churches if churchgoers treated pastors the same way.

For example, let’s say you don’t like a change in the worship service.

It’s all right to feel the way you do … and to tell your pastor how you feel … but then let the issue go.

Trust that he will make the right call, even if it takes a while.  You had your say … but must you have your way?

Second, learn who you can argue with … and who you can’t.

I like to argue, to test my positions and learn how other people think.  Ultimately, I’m after Truth with a capital “T.”

I try to argue without being argumentative, but sometimes, that doesn’t work out.

My wife and I were once invited by a friend and his wife to a dinner honoring various kinds of ministry chaplains.

While sitting at dinner, I made a comment about abortion, assuming the person sitting next to me would agree with my position.

He didn’t.

We quickly got into a verbal exchange … all because I didn’t yet know who he was.

If you know someone who loves a friendly argument, by all means, go at it … just so you remain friends afterwards.  Jesus certainly argued with both His disciples and His enemies a lot.

But if you’re around someone who doesn’t like to argue … let it go!

And my guess is that the vast majority of people do not like to argue.

Finally, realize that everybody is wrong at times … even you.

Last Saturday, my wife and our daughter and I visited San Diego.

I suggested that we visit the collection of shops and restaurants known as Seaside Village.

My wife gently called it Seaport Village.

I said, “No, I think it’s Seaside Village” … but then I wondered, “What if she’s right?”

When we walked up to the village, it was Seaport Village all right.

Because I didn’t make a big deal about the name, my wife and daughter let it slide.

But if I had said, “I’ll bet you fifty dollars that I’m right,” they wouldn’t have let me forget it all weekend.

When we know we’ve been wrong in the past, that knowledge should give us humility the next time that we’re positive we’re right.

But when we always insist that we’re right, we alienate our loved ones and people stay away from us.

In U2’s song Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own, Bono sings to his dying father, “You don’t have to put up a fight, you don’t have to always be right …”

If Christians would memorize and practice those lyrics, we’d have fewer conflicts and more far peace in our churches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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