So, today after the second service, I was approached by a visitor, who, clearly, wasn’t coming to tell me what a fantastic message he had just heard, or how impressed he was with my neon orange shoe laces. Armed with a half-smile and his leather-bound Bible, he was coming to do battle.
I welcomed him and we exchanged names. Then he began to tell me how I had completely mishandled the text I preached from…by quoting five or six passages and then turning to a related text, he proceeded to read me an entire passage, complete with properly placed voice inflections.
As he paused to catch his breath, I wedged in a short response to let him catch a glimpse of where I was coming from in my interpretation of the text. All that did was fuel his fire of opposition more. He pulled out a few more passages and then challenged my theological foundation and simply made it clear I was wrong in what I was preaching. He was not mean, but he was certainly emphatic.
All this happened while 30 or 40 people I wanted to connect with passed right by me. I attempted to close the conversation and offer to meet with him for a coke and discussion at a better time, but before I could, he turned away and walked out the doors…probably praying for my wretched, heretical soul.
These kinds of things happen every now and then. I’m never really offended and life is way too short to get mad at this kind of stuff. Most people believe what they believe with great passion…and many are not afraid to tell you all about it.
I’m a little different.
There are definitely things I have come to believe with my whole heart, things that form the foundation of how I live my life and shape the messages I pass on to people when I’m given the invitation. But years ago, I adopted a mindset that frames my pursuit of truth and always helps me measure how I interact with people…whether speaking on Sunday, posting on Facebook, or grabbing a coke with a friend after work.
I know I could be wrong.
Look. Let’s be honest. If knowing the truth was so easy, we wouldn’t have hundreds of different denominations. Or different political parties. Or differences of opinions on the national deficit and guns and immigration. But it’s not that easy. And I prefer to see my pursuit of truth as a work in progress, rather than a destination where I have arrived and built my permanent residence.
I believe God is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. I believe his words are timeless and his truth is unchanging. I also happen to believe I am not perfect. Nor is my understanding. So I continue to pursue truth and wisdom and understanding every day of my life…hopefully with humility in my heart and patience for those with whom I disagree.
How about you? What if, in the end, your beliefs are found to have been wrong about the rapture or baptism or speaking in tongues or divorce or eternal security? What if your beliefs are wrong about gun control or same-sex marriage or the death penalty or drinking alcohol? What if you really are a bigot or an idol worshipper or an addict…and you refuse to see it?
Maybe we would all be better off if we would just admit we are not perfect, nor do we have perfect understanding. And then give others room and respect to see things differently.
I didn’t like being treated like I was stupid, just because this guy thought he knew the truth better than I did. God help me from ever treating someone else the way he treated me.
May God help you, too.