Before Leanne and I were married, our pastor at the time was giving us marriage counselling and got around to the topic of conflict in relationships. To get across one of his points, he asked us the following question; “when having an argument, would you rather be right … or happy?”
I have come back to this question many times over the years (Leanne is always right – I am always happy … I kid, I kid) and in many different situations, but it has become somewhat of a “golden rule” to me because of it’s simplicity and yet it’s profound impact on any and all relationships.
Being right is not nearly as important as being loving.
We will encounter people every day that see things differently than we do and it is more important to treat them with love, encouragement, support than to correct their views of what is right and what is wrong.
Would you rather be right or happy?
I have been thinking about this lately with regard to the (many) controversial topics that seem to dominate extracurricular discussions in church communities these days:
- Gay marriage / acceptability of homosexuality in the church
- Creation / evolution / the nuanced views somewhere in the middle
- Militarism / nonviolence
- Israel / Palestine
- Women in church leadership
And the list goes on …
There very well might be absolute truths to each and every one of these, but I am not so bold/proud to assume I have these answers. But even if I do (or think I do), would I rather be right … or happy?
What I am learning – and hopefully putting into action – is that my first reaction to any discussion about these (and any other) topics should be love for the person or people I am speaking with. While I may not agree with their position, they are at least interested enough in searching for God’s perspective on the subject to be discussing it in the first place.
I should encourage this search for God rather than trample it by giving the impression there is no room for varied perspectives within the church as a whole.
What I may not realize is that, for some, the alternative viewpoint I may hold is not currently an option for them. If I express my opinion as a truth that must be accepted to be considered a Christ-follower, I may be unwittingly presenting a different option than I intend, which could have different consequences than I intend.
I’ll try to better get across what I am saying by giving a personal example – how to understand the story of Genesis in light of evolutionary theory – although the same “options” could be discussed for almost any controversial topic.
Many people present creation and evolution as being at odds with one another. The options seem to be:
A) Believe in a literal, six-day creation that happened in the relatively recent past (or some variation; e.g. Gap Theory)
B) Believe in evolution as presented by science in which random mutations have led to life on earth as we know it
And yet, there are large groups of christians who cannot accept either of these options and so have looked for (and found) alternative ways to understand Genesis and the relationship between God and natural sciences. They have put forward a number of other, interesting, suggestions based on their reading of the bible including theistic evolution, which (stated simply) says God is the one who put the system in place and works within it to guide the process to where we are today.
This is just one of the ways people are trying to re-understand God as creator and to reconcile it with what we are able to observe today; however, in many, but not all, cases, those who hold to either option A or B see only a dichotomy; either you believe in God and accept creation or you don’t and accept evolution.
By attempting to force someone to one side of this choice or the other, what some may be doing is setting up a situation where the choice will not go in their favour. For many people, throwing away what science has presented is just not an option – and so, if forced to choose either creation (which would necessitate throwing out evidence they “can see”) or evolution, God gets tossed out with the choice. (The same, potentially, though not as likely, could happen in reverse).
This is the problem with forcing people to make “black or white” choices – we may be forcing people to select the only option they see as viable.
In our desire to be “right”, we have actually lost.
Instead of forcing these either/or decisions, perhaps we should be more encouraging of people who are actively searching for ways to reconcile what they believe about “_____” with what they believe about God. Isn’t it better for someone to still be seeking an elusive way to live in the tension they feel than to discard their faith due to having to accept a “truth” they simply cannot believe?
God will reveal His truth in His time – he’s a patient guy! He’d rather have you hanging around asking questions than running away. And he actually knows the truth fully about any subject (and it may not be what you think).
I’d rather be loving than right.