Month: October 2010

  • The Arrogance of being Right

    Whatever brand of Christian you happen to be chances are you think you have some basic stuff figured out. Some good stuff. Important stuff. Concepts, beliefs, principles that define you and the culture that surrounds you and your family. This goes for what you believe doctrinally (or DON’T believe, whatever the case might be) to how you believe a Christian should present themselves in clothing, hair styles, food choices etc etc etc. The subjects and objects of “rightness” are as endless as the daily decisions we make.

    Most Christians whether they verbalize it or not feel like it’s their “duty” to be right. I mean, if we are not right then what are we doing saying we have “the answer” or “the key to salvation” or anything worth sharing, worth standing on, worth defining our lives by at all? If we are not right in what we believe then how can we say the rest of the religions of the world are wrong?

    There is a structure of growth in scripture that Paul specifically spells out. The concept of spiritual maturity being able to eat meat vs. those who still need milk and are spiritual “infants” This means we are all in stages of growth. Stages of understanding. Stages of freedom. Stages of insight. I don’t see scripture touting the concept of a grand finale, a marked point of arrival, a ding ding ding moment of realization and recognition for having figured all of the essentials out. It’s a process. It’s a process because it’s supposed to be based out of a relationship. Relationships are organic, they grow with due process. Our understanding and belief’s as Christians should be growing and changing as we learn from each other, challenge each other, wives submit to husbands, iron sharpens iron, fires of life refine who we are from the inside out.

    Most of my young growing up years were spent in churches that were predominately Armenian although I don’t remember ever hearing the term much less understanding what it meant until sitting under the teachings of a Calvinist Pastor in my teens. In my early teens the church we were attending called a Pastor that for all practical purposes was a Calvinist. Within the next year there was a huge shift in our family that left my head spinning and me feeling lost from a doctrinal standpoint. It felt like from one day to the next we were now Calvinists and the whole structure of belief we had before was now wrong. My remaining year’s at home we attended churches that taught and believed the concepts of Grace touted by Calvin and Luther. I spent hours researching, reading, searching things out for myself and coming up with more questions than answers. Each “system” had gaps, each “system” required leaps of Faith where logic gave out and each “System” of belief had holes from a scriptural consistency standpoint. In my late teens and early twenties I went through an internal crisis of Faith. This mental war of what was the “right” belief and feeling so confused to my very core, reading the arguments and blanket criticisms of one side to the other left me feeling lost among the shadows of far more intelligent and learned minds than mine. I felt as though there were this great divide among all Christians (since then I’ve learned about many, many more massively dividing issues among believers but at this point in my life this was THE dividing issue) There were two sides and there was no reconciling between them. There was a divide as massive and insurmountable as the Grand Canyon. And it was SO important to be right on this all important doctrinal structure that everything else was to be sacrificed to it. I saw Believers treat each other worse than infidels. I saw fellowship broken. I’ve seen accusations of heresy and predictions of horrific judgments pronounced upon believers by other believers. All in the name of rightness so often called righteousness. There is no justification in the world of Christianity more accepted or justified for showing a lack of love than a division over a fundamental/core doctrine. We as a group treat unbelievers with far more love and grace than we tend to show each other when we become aware of differences.

    The lesson I learned in hindsight looking back on this stage of my life is that being right comes with a price. Being right and absolutely confident in that rightness means we often, intentionally or not make others wrong. When I look at my life in hindsight dividing it up in 3 to 5 year markers and doing a little evaluation at each of those markers I realize I am never in exactly the same place as I was previously. Perspectives and belief’s shifted. Were refined. Some were challenged and subsequently discarded. Yet, had you asked me at each of these “Markers” if I was confident in the rightness of where I stood I would have said yes. I could not have been comfortable enough to camp out in that “spot” had I not been. There is I believe within every thinking persons heart a desire to find a place to stand. A structure to believe in and thus to feel safe within as a net of belief. As Christians we are no different. We still have an innate need, a desire for the security of rightness. We research, seek, read, pray, search out until we find our next safe harbor in the storm of teachings. And we cling to that spot until something comes along that shakes it up and makes it an un-safe place and we start all over again but always seeking until we find that secure place to “land” in our understanding and human logic. We use these frameworks to determine who we will fellowship with. Who we will sit under for teachings. Who’s authority we will submit ourselves to. And, what we look like and how we act while we do all of this.

    I don’t mean to suggest that this is bad, or wrong. It’s a vital part to this growing process we are all on. However, I do believe our in the moment arrogance in where we are very often IS wrong. When our confidence in the absolute rightness of our structure of the year(s) is held on a pedestal to the exclusion of showing love to a fellow believer it is wrong. (Hah, or so says MY structure of the moment! silly )

    Something really clicked for me within the past few weeks. This concept of who we are in Christ to be nothing but a reflection back to Him. That our lives are to mirror Christ and the work He has done. This is not a new idea, just the implications of how that works is new. You see, how I always understood that to work is that we need to be careful as Christians to protect this “image” of Christianity. That we need to be good, we need to be pure, we need to be all things wonderful and right. That we need to hold to good standards. That these standards are vital and what everyone needs to see and notice about us first. That this image maintenance WAS the reflection of the work Christ has done in us. Being righteous and shunning or separating ourselves from those who do not have the same standards as ourselves so we would not be tainted by their lack of righteousness or their lack of good doctrine or whatever the reason might be. That all of this was representative of how Christ was good and right.  I don’t believe that is true anymore.

    I now believe we are to be transparent. We are to confess our sins one to another. We are to forgive each other. We are to own our struggles, our sins, those things we keep hidden, all in the name of protecting our Christian Image. If we are so good in and of ourselves, if we no longer have struggles, if we no longer sin, if we no longer have those moments where our human frailty completely shatters any illusions of pride and self worth the implication to others is we no longer have need of a Savior. There are many good people of many religions of the world. They are moral. They struggle to do the right thing and keep their conscience clear. They love their families. Give generously to those in need and are loyal to their countries. If we as Christians depend on the rightness of our structure of belief and the code of conduct that comes from it to differentiate us from the rest of the world and from the other religions of the world we have already lost the message we are to carry. Our Morality, Standards and Conservative Lifestyles are not enough and I have come to believe in many cases hurt the message. The Message of Love. Love being the differentiating characteristic. The one crucial, pivotal, unarguably supernatural element that sets our God, Our Savior, and Us as a people apart.

    John 13:34-35

     34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

    35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    John 15:11-13

    11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

    John 15:16-18

    16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another.

    Romans 12:9-11  

    9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

    Romans 13:8-10

    8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,”[a] “You shall not covet,”[b] and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[c] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    Romans 14:15

    15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

    1 Corinthians 13:1-9

     1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
    11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
    13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    1 Corinthians 16:14

    14 Let all that you do be done with love

    Galatians 5:6

    6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

    Galatians 5:12-14

    12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
    13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[a]

    Galatians 5:22-23

    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

    Ephesians 4:1-3

     1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    I worked with a Lesbian lady a few years ago who was completely open about her life-style. She remains to this day one of the most giving, open and loving people I have met. I often wondered why she went out of her way to show care to others when she had no “higher” motivation to do so (she was also a self proclaimed atheist who claimed no religion). She shared with me her story, growing up in a home with a highly abusive Father who beat her Mom regularly. As a small girl she vowed to never be weak enough that a man could hurt her, or to ever put herself in a position to be vulnerable to a man for the rest of her life. As a 40-something year old woman she had kept that vow to herself. Only women were allowed into the closest areas of her life. Men were kept at an emotional-and physical arms length. She was a woman acutely aware of her need for love and out of that high awareness she was reminded to show love to others. She met my husband Steve one time but learned the sort of man that he was by how he treated me. She told me “If I had known there were men like him, men who loved and cared for women my life might have turned out differently.” She also told me I was the only Christian she had ever met who treated her as a person and showed love to her. She told me once “We don’t have to be reminded how God feels about us. That is everywhere, every Christian we meet reminds us of how God hates us and the way we live. We are ignored and sometimes verbally abused by Christians trying to make sure we know how bad we are. We live with it. We know.” To be shown love as a person by a Christan was a totally novel concept for her. It was a stark object lesson for me in the reality of judgment and condemnation we a Christians dole out as a group. We, as a collective Christian body have left her and many others broken, hurt and damaged people with nothing. No hope and certainly no love.

    But we say it’s Ok, and even just. Because we are right and they are wrong.

    It’s the pure arrogance of rightness. And there has been a high price paid by many.