Do you want to be right, or be in a relationship?
The choice is ours. We can choose to be right, hold our ground, and argue until we are the last one standing, or we can choose to acknowledge another’s point of view (which, of course, can be totally wrong!), extend grace, flexibility, and live in peace.
Speaking to relationships, my heart goes out to the United Methodist Church (UMC), a mainline denomination that met in St. Louis at the end of last month to determine its future on the issue of homosexuality. [The morning after the decision was made, I wrote about this in a blog here on my website titled “Divided we all fall.”]
In the comment section below the blog, which I invite you to read if you have not done so, a man name Dave wrote, “The only source of unity is the word of God. Anything less will lead to division. The church has chosen to remain true to that Word. Those that choose not to stand on that Word are the ones causing the division.”
I respect Dave who argues that unity is found in scripture. As you have read, Dave does not specifically mention unity is found in all scripture, but he suggests if we have discrepancies or differences, we are to look to the Word of God for answers, perhaps absolutes.
When we look to the role of women by turning to scripture, we learn a few facts or answers. The Apostle Paul, our greatest contributor to the New Testament, says more about the role of women keeping silent in the church and praying with their heads covered than he does about same sex acts. Paul also says women are to submit to men, and women are not to wear jewelry. True, Paul had women in ministry, yet Paul is clear: a woman must not teach a man.
Here comes a question. Should all my women Sunday school teachers of yore and the female professors in my advanced theological degree programs stop teaching, or do we hold certain scriptures more accountable over others?
Dave doesn’t answer this in his reply, but Jesus does. A religious expert asks the upstart teacher/preacher if some commandments are more important than others. In Matthew 22:36-37, Jesus answers, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind…the second commandment is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Jesus is about inclusion, not division. Jesus is about relationships, not religion. Yes, scripture matters. It is our source! It is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).
Scripture is a teacher in and of itself. Let it continue to do what it has done since you were a child, and that is inform you through others, especially those who love Jesus with you. Continue to enjoy time in a relational conversation with others in an adult Sunday school class (our teacher Paula is truly one of THE best), or informal “after sermon discourses” (my congregation is very good at these after church pop-up chats).
In our faith formation, each of us should perpetually say, “I’ve never thought of what you’re sharing like this before.” In fact, we should actively press on in intentional open arenas to let God do what God does: instruct, inform, challenge, rebuke and enlighten us not through our thoughts alone, but through others.
False doctrines exist. False teaching exists, too. Since two heads are better than one (and scripture at the end of this blog supports this), we must be vigilant and mindful. To do so, let’s look to what God is saying in our thoughts and in the thoughts of others.
Yes, my compliments to Dave earlier in this column are as sincere as they were moments ago, and yes, Dave does have things he can teach me because one, he has a mind that isn’t mine, and two, I have a willingness to learn from him. Actually, I should say I have a desire to learn with him.
I hope he writes again. I hope others join him, including you. To me, it doesn’t get more exciting than this meeting of the mind and of the heart, of making connections and gains through conversations. As we enter our places of worship ready to be moved by the Holy Spirit, let us do the same in conversation.
If you’re looking for a fight, you’ll find a friend. If you’re holding all the answers, I’ll gently keep asking questions not to challenge you, but to have holy dialog because my Bible study peeps have proven this to be true: “Wherever two or three are more are gathered (not divided) in my name, I am with them (Matthew 18:20).”
Divided we do fall. Let’s have Christ with us.