Being Right 1 – Wonderfully Complex
Baskin-Robbins has a nearly foolproof strategy: offer enough flavors of ice cream to your customers and, odds are, everyone will find something they enjoy. Good plan. In fact, since their founding, “31 Flavors” has introduced over 1,000 flavors to their customers. These guys know what they’re doing.
People are different. Right down to our sense of taste. An individual tongue has about ten thousand taste buds, and each little 10,000-member colony is unique to a given tongue in a given mouth. Something that tastes good to one person might taste awful to another.
Since our taste buds are so distinctive, imagine how different we are in other areas of life, like art or music. If you pause to consider just how unique each person really is, you can’t help but echo the words of the psalmist who said:
“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14, NLT
“Wonderfully complex,” that’s a perfect description of people. God has created a repopulating world full of unique, peculiar, wonderfully complex individuals who are each one of a kind, individual creations of God. Amazing, isn’t it?
But there is a common denominator. These unique, complicated individuals, while different in everything from DNA, to fingerprints, to taste buds, tend to share at least one universal trait…
They each believe they are right about everything.
I was a pastor for much of the last forty years and, as such, had occasion to talk with people about everything from God to golf. I served, at various times, in at least four distinct denominations, and learned, early on, that God had given me two ears and one mouth, which suggested that I should be listening twice as much as I talk.
Spending the better part of a half century listening to people talk about their lives, their beliefs, their faith, their families, and their politics, I’ve discovered that every person, and I mean everybody, looks at things differently—sometimes only slightly, but always uniquely, and usually confidently.
People naturally believe their perspective on things is correct, or they would change their mind. It would take a stubborn mule (that is, a real jackass) to knowingly hold a belief that they found to be false. As a result, most people believe they are right and are more than happy to draw swords with anyone who holds a different view on issues they are passionate about.
In any gathering of a local congregation, each person will hold different theological beliefs. No two people look at things exactly the same way due to our background, upbringing, biblical literacy, etc. Think about the subject of baptism or grace. Chances are that if you explained your perception of these in detail they would likely be a little different from my perspective, or your pastor’s view, or even your spouse’s beliefs of the same ideas.
Each week we sit in our churches surrounded by people we assume to be like-minded, but who probably understand things very differently than we do.
Now, should we leave the church and search for people who agree with us on every issue in the hopes to start a pure strain of like-minded believers? No, that would be futile and impossible because the dynamic will always be true.
Unfortunately, that’s essentially what happens when someone splits off and attempts to start their own church. There is usually a sense that they want to do it right, finally, after two thousand years. I know; I’ve done it. I’m no longer under that delusion. There are bigger fish to fry.
I told a church one Sunday that if they knew what the people around them, including their own family, or even the person on the platform, really believed about things they assume people agree on, they would be amazed and, in some cases, appalled. Because we all think we’re right and we assume that the people around us in church see things just like we do. They don’t.
So, how do we really know if we, of all the people in the world, are right? And, does being right even matter?
I’ve discovered that being right is highly overrated. It usually just means that I get my way, which, in the long run, generally isn’t that important.
I’m learning to relax my deep-seated, evangelically-trained, need to be right about everything, in part, because of the example of my friends Patrick and John. Over the course of thirty years, I’ve admired their uncanny ability to enjoy life and value the people around them, even when those people are their polar opposites.
When I’m with Pat and John my need to be right is trumped by their appreciation for me as a person. My friends have learned that the key to biblical relationship is not intellectual superiority or doctrinal advantage, but unconditional love and limitless appreciation. That seems very Christlike to me.
I think loving, and being loved, is far better, richer, and Christlike, than being right, and honing your beliefs among people who seem to agree with you.
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13 NLT