WHEN BEING “RIGHT” IMPEDES THE GOSPEL
Dan O’Deens 8.25.2021
Is there any wisdom in gray hair or no hair? In my twenty’s I had an opinion about everything and I would fight for it. I was so dogmatic on almost everything. Surprising I had any friends at all.
In my 30’s and 40’s I began to lose the edge of that dogmatic elitism that painted the perception that I was the smartest person in the room. Even if I was that reality never sat well with the people I had the privilege to journey through life. It left me in isolation and assigned me the title of ‘egotistical cynic.’ My mantra was, ‘there are two kinds of people in this world; the kind who stir up the dust and the kind that eat people’s dust. I wanted to be out in front. I wanted to be ‘right.’ “Right” was more important than ‘first.’ After all I already knew that ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first.’
In my 50’s I began to grapple with that which is really important. I read, “when you look at other people…their decisions…their lifestyles…how do you ‘first’ see them? Do you see them as sinners or as people who were made in the image and likeness of Jesus? How you respond to that question will determine your ability to impact their life. #gamechanger.
I value theology. I am a student of the Word of God, now for 43 years. (post high school) I may be accused for being ‘wishy washy’ but my theology has been minimalized by one simple statement. “Love God and Love People…in that order.
When we learn how to love like Jesus loved, the world is a better place and I am wholistically a better person in a better place. (body, mind, heart, spirit)
I would guess genuine love has something to do with cultivating good and healthy relationships. Romans 14 in the Message begins this way.
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”
When my need to be ‘right’ impedes the opportunity for the gospel to be received by those who have not yet crossed the line from death to life then perhaps we have been ‘wrong.’
A few years back I became increasingly aware of a word that was too much a part of the Christian vocabulary. It was the word, ‘wrong.’ Wrong – a violation or invasion of the legal rights of another, unfair, unjust, immoral, unethical. OK, I get it. Wrong…like as in ‘sin’ wrong? But, that is how we see it. If someone disagrees with me, they are ‘wrong’ and I am ‘right.’ We paint the ‘other’ side as sinful…wrong.
But by whose standard? Is there an objective standard? Has God spoken? Should we vaccinate or not? Should we wear masks or not? Does anyone have the right to tell me what to do? Jesus was clear and in fact established government and expects us to submit. Yes, I know, His ways are higher than our ways. But, Jesus said to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. If the ‘law’ does not violate the ‘LAW’ then we must submit.
But I do not like it! They are infringing on ‘my’ rights! We have bought into an unhealthy culture and have become citizens of The United States of Entitlement. We are more willing to lose valuable relationship on the authority of my ‘rightness.’
Some of you are reading this and have already stopped listening and your mind is running at warp speed, crafting your opinionated response to what is right for you. (and therefore, in your mind, for all others, who don’t ‘get it’ and are ‘wrong.)
As you look at ‘the relationship triangle’ you see that as we draw closer to God, we become closer to one another. But there is also another important visual. As I get closer to God, I give up more and more of ‘my rights.’ The stronger brother is the one who gives up his ‘rights.’ The weaker brother is ‘against’ all that is ‘wrong’ as he/she defines it by their own preference or opinion when there is no moral absolute standard. (meaning God has not spoken on that subject)
If God has spoken through His objective Word and the teaching is unequivocally clear, then we have a moral standard. If God is silent, then we must adhere to Romans 14. (the passage mentioned earlier).
As Christ followers, there is a moral standard. Love God and Love People. I will love you. I will be gentle in my thoughts, words and actions toward you. I will choose to love and be gentle because God has spoken on these things.
As it relates to the Gospel…John 13:35 is pretty clear. ”By this (love), everyone will know that you are followers of Jesus…IF you have love one for another.”
Is there any wisdom in gray hair or no hair?
If there is, this is what I have learned. I know I don’t know as much as I think I know. (and neither do you). So, let’s love more and be more gentle and kind. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing and the main thing is relationship.