“…we know that all of us have knowledge, but knowledge can be risky. Knowledge promotes overconfidence and worse arrogance, but charity of the heart (love, that is) looks to build up others. Just because a person presumes to have some bit of knowledge, that person doesn’t necessarily have the right kind of knowledge. But if someone loves God, it is certain that God has already known that one” (I Corinthians 8:1-3, The Voice).
I received a message last week. “Paul, can we meet soon and talk?”
Those kinds of messages scare me. Especially when they seemingly come out of the blue. There’s a paranoia part of me that thinks, “What did I do wrong?” There’s an AA sponsor part of me that thinks, “Are they struggling with addiction?” Although not as prevalent anymore, there is a part of me that shudders to think, “Amway?”
But, as usual, none of these parts was correct. This friend wanted to address something from my facebook activity. (Imagine that: ME with facebook activity! How rare! #sarcasm)
It was not something I wrote. It was not even something I shared. It was something I liked or commented on that another facebook friend had shared. And there were some issues with the article that neither I nor any of the commenters brought up in our online discussion.
And this friend was concerned. Not because they thought I was wrong. Not because they thought my soul was in danger of eternal damnation. Not because they thought my liking this post would usher in the end of Western civilization. But simply because the article in question left no room for disagreement; no room for dialogue. It was another in a long line of: “I am right, if you disagree you are wrong” articles.
Normally, I hate those. I really do. But I read a ton of them. And I share a lot them, too.
And so many times, I do not even realize I am doing it. It is as if sharing close-mindedness has become as much a part of my enlightened, westernized thinking as always standing up when sometimes says, “728b.” (#oldchurchofchristjoke)
I have always assumed that eating meat was one of the most difficult issues the apostle Paul dealt with. I think this because he addresses it multiple times. He also seems to call each side of the meat-eating debate weak and strong. In one city, meat-eaters are the strong; in another they are weak. Go figure.
Maybe it’s because Paul was addressing something that went deeper than the act of eating. Maybe Paul was addressing something deeper than the hot-button issue of the day. Maybe Paul was dealing with something that could not be parsed so easily into ideological sides. Maybe Paul knew something we need to learn:
Knowledge often makes us arrogant jerks. Love often makes us kind enough to put relationship over ideal.
When I first began my journey in sobriety, I often heard the question: “Which is more important—to be right or to be sober?” The lesson was I could push so hard to prove I was right that I would end up driving myself to drink because of the stress of showing everyone I was right. Sometimes, I needed to say that it did not matter if I was right or wrong. What mattered was that I did things to promote sobriety.
When an issue becomes more important to me than a person, I have lost my focus. My friend reached out to me because I was perpetuating a cycle that said, “If you do not agree with me, you cannot be right; you cannot be a Christian; you cannot be a good person; you cannot be my friend.”
If you ever hear me saying that, please tell me to shut up. Telling me kindly is preferable, but maybe I deserve it bluntly.
I quoted from I Corinthians at the beginning of this post. It is only a few chapters later in the context of worship that Paul says, “If I have all kinds of knowledge, but I do not love people, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” In other words, Paul is saying, “If you cannot be loving, shut up. Your loud knowledge is not helping anybody.”
I welcome disagreement. I welcome dialogue. I always want to be inviting. You may not win me over to your side. I may not win you over to mine. But more often than not, I don’t care. As long as you will stay in relationship with me.
So give me your ideas: how do we break this pattern of: agree with me or be wrong? How do overcome close-mindedness? How can we dialogue respectfully?