Everyone does this — they think they are right. On any given topic. Most people go through life thinking they have the Truth on any given subject. Some of this is out of necessity. We would probably literally go insane if we really embraced the reality that we don’t know very much about most things, and if we are lucky we know a little bit about a subject or two.
Most people want to claim the mantle of having the truth. Except no one is completely right. It’s impossible to be completely right. We don’t have the ability to see things from all sides or even comprehend the variables that exist to get the whole truth.
Yet I think it is interesting that there are many who want to stand on that mantle of being right. There are many who want to let the world know they have the answers to all of life’s situations and that everyone should just follow them. And anyone who doesn’t isn’t just misguided, but falls under the label of “stupid” or some variation. In theological “discussions” the labels usually fall into the category of “heretic” or some variation of this.
I find it interesting that the people who demand compliance of thought of others are usually the same people who aren’t very open to discussion, questions, or actual debate. There is no variance to the belief system being expressed. There is only those who agree and submit or there are those who are wrong because they disagree and are therefore heretics — to hell with them!
Yet, how certain are these folks of their beliefs? I’ve never come across anyone who is certain that actually is willing to be vulnerable — vulnerable to the idea that their beliefs might be misguided. Hence, the insistence on compliance of thought. If there are no questions, no debate, no openness to exploring beliefs, then there is certainty.
Except this isn’t how we move towards the truth. We don’t arrive at truth by eliminating questions, opposition, or opposing beliefs. We arrive at truth by being open to explore, contrast, and seeing what holds up and why. Opening ourselves up to different ideas doesn’t mean we have to adopt them. It does mean we have to consider that someone comes to a different conclusion for very good reasons — reasons that are typically back up with reasonable ideas, a set of facts and data, and life experiences. This is the exact same reason we come to our own conclusions — because of the reasonableness of the ideas we embrace (or so we think), a set of facts and data we are exposed to, and our own life experiences.
Being Lutheran helps in this matter — Luther was big on holding diametrically opposed ideas existing at the same time. Something could be A and B at the same time — saint and sinner being the most famous. A doesn’t exclude B. A is true, and so is B. It depends on how you look at it, what angle you are seeing it from, what set of information you are accessing, and where you are in life.
Yet, there are many in the world, and especially here in the US right now that are more concerned with being right than anything else. I think I’m starting to understand why — fear. The world is changing — definitions of things that have held for a long time are changing. Technology moves faster than humanity could ever hope to. Human identity is up in the air and changing. Roles of different people and groups of people are changing. The very nature of work is changing. Our planet is changing. What does this mean for us? Security is something that many humans crave. But the reality is that security is really just another name for control. We want control of what happens around us. We want predictability. We want someone to control our environment in predictable ways. We want God’s command for us to subdue creation to mean that we can do what we want with it — that we are just one step down from being God.
Many spend a great deal of time, energy, and attention on efforts at being right. Being right about politics and religion are two of the biggest. That’s because they deal with our identity — we are what we believe about these subjects, or so many people believe. You are liberal, you are conservative, you are this, you are that. Many people need these labels in order to put you in a box. Once in the box, the label takes over. There is no more thought needed. You are labeled forevermore. No struggling over a person. No need to keep listening, to being challenged, to seeing a person as a person.
Many are busy fighting to be right and to show just how right they are. We would rather fight and be right rather than spend time and energy to serve others. We can make the excuse that we’ll serve once we’ve won the fight. Except the fight never ends. It’s an endless war with endless enemies. And so many stay locked in perpetual thought war — stuck in their heads, never living out the beliefs they supposedly cling to. I think most of the fighting is really about convincing ourselves of our beliefs. If we really believed, really grasped what it is we claim to believe, we would just live it out and ignore the people who would rather fight.
While we’re busy fighting over conservative and liberal Christianity, over whether social justice Christians or doctrinally orthodox Christians are the “real” Christian, there’s a bunch of people who have real needs and are in different fight that actually matter — matters of life and death. While we’re fighting over who has the right doctrine and belief system and not actually living it out, there are people who are struggling with depression and are considering suicide. There are families with children and individuals living in vehicles at truck stops — it is their homes. There are people who are trapped in human trafficking. There are people held hostage in drug addictions. There are people who are forgotten in nursing homes and hospitals, just waiting to die because they are forgotten and see no purpose for their lives. There are people who are shunned from their families because who they are doesn’t match up with what their families believe and what their churches tell them about how people should be.
But hey, we need to be right first, right? Being right is what we are called to as a Christ follower, right?
If you want to claim the label of Christian, then it’s time to live it out. To fully embrace what it means to be a Christian. It means following Jesus, just as you are, not when you think you are ready and you have it all figured out. Jesus never said: “Come and follow me when you have your act together and you have a sound doctrine and theology worked out.” Nope. It was just “come and follow me.” So what are you waiting for? The right time? The right belief? The right words? The right ideas and beliefs?
Come and follow Jesus — he’ll fix your theology as you go. Stop making excuses. Salvation doesn’t come by right thinking. It comes through Jesus. Following Jesus transforms your life, your thoughts, your attitudes, everything. Come and follow.
Originally published at laceduplutheran.com on May 8, 2018.