Atoms collide and turn into thought / and Ideas explode and turn into hate / but love survives... (Brother Henry, Love Survives, "Love Survives")
A scenario that has been repeated many times during my life took place once again this morning at the young men's group that I attend weekly. I was in a conference room, surrounded by a half dozen bright, articulate, conservative Christian brothers, attempting to explain my rather controversial belief that Christians are not the guardians of social morality and Christianity is not about getting involved with or controlling politics.
The views I hold on this subject haven't changed substantially over the years, but the way I hold them has changed drastically. I enjoy thinking and talking about these things, but I have no desire to "prove my position," or denounce anyone for believing something different. I don't need to win the argument. That's no longer what it's about for me.
I don't mean this smugly, as if I could care less what anyone else thought. (I don't want to have the mentality that says: "You don't have to agree with me - you're free to be wrong.") I'm sure I still don't care about what others think as much as I should, but I think I'm learning to care more deeply than I have in the past. Instead of arguing with intellectual competitors about this or that issue, I'd rather be swapping stories with comrades about our experiences on the journey of faith. If you think this makes me a mushy postmodern jellyfish, I'm sorry. It's just that being a self-righteous maverick doesn't get you very far. In fact, it takes you backwards.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8 that "knowledge" puffs up, while love builds up. We should ask ourselves whether our relationships are more like houses or hot air balloons. What materials and methods are we using - the strong timbers of love or the flimsy canvas of our own cleverness?
I can hear some murmurs starting, so let me pause and make one thing as clear as possible: walking in love does not mean that I don't take the truth seriously - it only means that I don't take my opinion of the truth so seriously. As Paul writes again,"If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know." (1 Cor. 8:2)
Francis Schaeffer was not one to shy away from serious, full-tilt intellectual discussion. He believed in thinking and he believed in truth. With that in mind, here's what he had to say about the way we hold and communicate our opinions:
Every time I see something right in another man, it tends to minimize me, and it makes it easier for me to have a proper creature-creature relationship. But each time I see something wrong in others, it is dangerous, for it can exalt self, and when this happens, my open fellowship with God falls to the ground. So when I am right, I can be wrong. In the midst of being right, if self is exalted, my fellowship with God can be destroyed. It is not wrong to be right, but it is wrong to have a wrong attitude in being right, and to forget that my relationship with my fellowmen must always be personal. If I really love a man as I love myself, I will long to see him be what he could be on the basis of Christ's work, for that is what I want or what I should want for myself on the basis of Christ's work. And if it is otherwise, not only is my communication with the man broken, but my communication with God as well. For this is sin, breaking the second commandment to love my neighbor as myself.1
It is my prayer that the Lord would enable us to become a body at peace with itself, not needing to disparage other parts because of our own insecurities. There should be no exclusivity between communication and compromise, as long as we're willing to sacrifice our lust for vindication on the altar of love. Then, and only then, perhaps we can have some real relationship-based constructive dialogue, and that excites me a whole lot more than merely being right.
I don't want to be right anymore
I don't want to be good
I don't want to change your mind
To feel it like I do-Derek Webb, The Ringing Bell, "I Don't Want To Fight"
(1) Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1971), 153
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