Have you ever wondered how it is that two people can be looking at the same exact information and arrive at two opposite conclusions? Maybe you have a friend who sits on the other side politically. Perhaps you have tried as I have to interpret their reasoning for what they believe, only to wonder how your friendship can survive such discrepancy of opinion. Or maybe your conflict is more personal, relational, whereby a disagreement is so deep rooted that one or both of you are no longer even able to communicate.
We all have these issues in our lives, no matter how open-minded we claim to be. We are not always as empathic as we intend. We are not always willing to bend from our positions of who is right and who is wrong. In our eyes, we are always right. In our minds, it’s the other person who needs to change, be awakened, to conform.
I hate to admit it, but I am guilty. Although I like to think that I give someone the benefit of the doubt, it’s not always the case. I am tarnished by past experiences. I am hardcore about certain things, like faithfulness, honesty, and issues of character, that cause me to bristle at perceived breaches of trust. I hate bias, and yet I know that I have it about things that, in the past, affected me. Sometimes, for me, someone may well be guilty until proven innocent.
Not the best representation of grace and mercy, to be sure. And yet, we all do it.
I am trying to understand why this is. As passionate people, we have strong feelings about certain things. We have no tolerance for injustice, child abuse, mistreatment of animals, violence or abuse of any kind to anybody… Betrayal and abandonment also rank high for me.
I don’t believe that in all things we are to turn the other other cheek. But in most things, common things, issues of conflict and perspective, there are two sides to every story.
We don’t always know another’s life experience. Everyone we meet, under the surface, has a paradigm for how they see the world and interact. This is true about race, about politics, culture, and sin. What is morally acceptable to one person’s values can be completely rejected by another. Even within the Church, there are degrees of interpretation as to what is deemed appropriate and what is not.
How are we to know?
I believe that God gives us discernment. Of course, we also have free will to do and think and act according to our principals and character. We have a set of standards and people who know us well, know where we stand based on our values and how we live our lives. For many of us, there are unconditional boundaries of right and wrong. Others are less willing to commit, leading a more “live and let live” existence.
The truth is, when we let the world dictate our values, and not God, we will always be divided. The world will give us standards of acceptability. It will tell us the importance we should place on our happiness, blurring the lines of moral code when it comes to sin. Just because “everybody does it,” should not be the measuring stick by which we make decisions.
And yet, that is exactly what happens.
I am challenged by this daily within my own life. People that I love and care about deeply, succumb to the notion that righteousness is negotiable. As if God is okay with the breaking of covenants, dishonesty, and margins for error when it comes to honoring relationships with integrity.
I don’t believe this is how God intended it.
God gives us commands to love, honor, and protect one another. He gives us wise counsel, His Word, His Spirit to guide us, shape us, and keep our feet upon the right path. This makes living less complicated, not more. It gives us more freedom, not less, because we don’t need to waste time and energy wandering in the desert of gray areas. What’s right is right. We know this instinctively.
My point is this — I have taught my kids that God’s rules are pretty simple, pretty straight forward. Aligning ourselves by living according to His ways, means that we will be honest, trustworthy, kind, respectful, loyal, and true. We will walk by faith and not by sight. We will take the high road, not the path of least resistance.
Are we perfect? No. Will we make mistakes? Absolutely. Will we still sin? Most assuredly. But God knows our hearts. He will bring us back into righteousness when we fail.
We might not always agree with our neighbor, or even family, about issues or life. We might see things completely opposite of someone else about what is culturally acceptable or attractive. Our tastes will vary and our ideals will be questioned.
But if we live our lives cognizant of what God would have us do, not the world, we can know that by standing in His ways we will never need to question what is right.
We all want to get along. We all want to be validated, loved and accepted. We may need to sway and bend from time to time in our judgment of frivolous things because they are important to someone else. We may need to acquire broader horizons in our tastes and play along and be a good sport for the betterment of our relationships. Even politically, we may acquiesce, working harder to see another’s point of view.
But when it comes to righteousness, to making decisions of doing what God would have us do versus what the world says, choose God. It is the only way that I know to be true.
He is the only one is always right.