Being right or being loving . . .

rightIt seems to me that if we are forced to make a choice between being right (winning the argument) and being loving, we should always chose the latter. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case with the Christian Church.

John 13:35 records Jesus as telling us that love is to be the defining characteristic of his followers. But love is not the first characteristic that comes to mind when those outside the church think of those of us inside. They think of us as judgmental, argumentative and coercive. They think of us this way because too often we have been judgmental, argumentative and coercive. We need to be honest about our failings in this regard and seek to do better.

The point is that we may pretend that we are better than those outside the church, but that is not true. We may pretend that we have better understanding of the world than those outside the church, but that is also not true. We are fumbling through life like the rest of humanity.

This is not to say that we don’t have answers. But any answers we have are those that God has given to us. They were given to us because God loves us, not because we are any better or any more deserving. If we get a good grade on the test, it is only because the Teacher gave us the answers.

What would happen if believers did the following?

  • Spent more time listening to our neighbors’ and coworkers’ stories and less time pushing our agenda.
  • Served others rather than argue with them.
  • Admitted our own inability to live up to Scriptural standards and our tendency to become smug, judgmental and coercive.
  • Prayed for a proper sense of humility.
  • Invited non-Christians to critique how well we represent Jesus.
  • Got past our discomfort in being around people who come from a different point of view and tried to get to know and understand them.

It seems to me that if we did a better job of loving our neighbors, we would be better representatives of the Christ that we claim to follow.

My observation is that most people realize that they don’t have all the answers and distrust people who act as if they do. Christians don’t have all the answers. We only have one answer and that is Jesus himself. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), we are fumbling along trying to follow that way and must admit that we often get it wrong.

So let’s stop focusing on being right and focus on being loving. The God we claim to worship is big enough to show others where they are wrong and he will do it in a far better and more healing way than we ever could.