I have been challenged this month to continue to live as a person of conviction WITH understanding, rather than as either a person of understanding WITHOUT conviction, or a person of conviction WITHOUT understanding.
What amazes me about Jesus is His ability to wield uncompromising truth WITH understanding that others are coming from a different place with a different life-story. If we were to apply this to our own relationship with God, compared to Him we are ALL coming to Him -- Who has perfect knowledge, wisdom and intelligence -- with a broken story and a drastically sinful and different place. Yet even with Perfect attributes of goodness, justness and love, He is compassionate and understanding that we are 'in process' -- not where He is and God-willing, not where we will be as we are changed into His likeness.
So first, it is important that we stay true to being people of unfeigning CONVICTION to the "true truth" of the faith passed down to us (I Cor 11:2). Even though others may disagree, misunderstand and even misrepresent what we as Christ-followers believe, say or do, we must NOT change or accomodate the veracity of the Message of Jesus in the Scriptures to fit what culture wants to hear, what is vogue or comfortable. This is CONVICTION.
Yet in addition to conviction, Jesus also wielded incredible UNDERSTANDING of our frailty and depraved estate. What was it about Jesus that prostitutes, drunks, derelicts, outcasts, liberals, crooked politicians and the super-religious could all approach Him -- all starting from a different place? I believe Jesus wielded compassionate and sympathetic understanding WITHIN His convictions. Understanding means that we realize people have a journey and a process so we relate to them with respect, tenderness and love. Isn't this how WE want to be treated by God when our distorted views and LIVES (!) don't match up to His? As the Scriptures say, 'a bruised reed He does not break and a smoldering wick He does not snuff out'. So what WE ask from God (mercy, compassion) we must also be willing to measure out to others.
Remember that Jesus never interrogated people as to all of their 'views' before they could get to Him ... they came to Him (like we did) where they WERE, with all of their junk and imperfections. And He in their mercy over time, corrected and loved them to where He was. Let's do the same.
So how far are you willing to go with your understanding? Only as far as your comfort level, or God's comfort level? I think His comfort level with people's journeys is much higher than ours. I'd like to suggest that when others hold different views about even very emotional and super-charged issues (just like in Jesus' day): abortion, sexuality, health care, role of government, other religions and more ... let's not abuse them. Let's listen to them, love them with understanding, respectfully and thoughtfully disagree ... but love them as we would want to be loved if we but for the grace of God were in their place. God will fix their views and lives JUST AS He in His mercy will continue to fix our distorted and broken views (and lives) over time. As we say regularly in the Lord's Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses AS WE ALSO forgive those of others...
- Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
- where there is hatred, let me sow love;
- where there is injury, pardon:
- where there is doubt, faith ;
- where there is despair, hope
- where there is darkness, light
- where there is sadness, joy
- O divine Master,
- grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
- to be understood, as to understand;
- to be loved, as to love;
- for it is in giving that we receive,
- it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
- and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. St. Francis of Assisi
PS Interesting fact: The Pharisees came to power soon after the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians; because of its destruction, a system for righteousness was needed (since sacrifices could not be made and the temple could not be accessed). In this leadership and righteousness vacuum, a group emerged who developed a system -- an extraBiblical one -- to 'make up' what righteousness was ... this group eventually became known as the Pharisees. They were the conservatives, the upholders of righteousness (for good and for evil), and the protectors of truth. Some of these were devout and pious people who truly loved God. But others put heavy weights (hundreds of laws) on God's people, disabling them from getting to God, while not even 'lifting a finger' to help others with the weights they COULD bear. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because even though they were convinced about the truth, the way they operated in culture actually disabled them AND OTHERS from having true access to God and eventually resulted in their rejection of God-in-the-flesh, Jesus. If we are not careful, we can also distract and disable ourselves AND OTHERS from understanding who Jesus is by putting too many things that are not central, in our and their, way. Conviction WITH understanding.
PPS 26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Cor 1:26-31