I love to be right. I mean, I really love to be right. There are few things that I dislike more than having to admit that I am wrong about something, though it does happen. If I am not careful, however, it is entirely possible to be completely wrong in my “rightness.”
A number of years ago, a friend shared the lyrics to a song he had been listening to that cut me to my core. The artist (Derek Webb) had a penchant for pushing buttons and challenging the Church to live more fully into her identity as the bride of Christ and the people of God. Backed by an illusively soothing acoustic guitar, his strident voice rang out:
“They’ll know us by the t-shirts that we wear / They’ll know us by the way we point and stare / At anyone whose sin looks worse than ours / Who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare. / They’ll know us by our picket lines and signs / They’ll know us by the pride we hide behind / Like anyone on earth is living right / And isn’t that why Jesus died / Not to make us think we’re right.”
How many times have people of faith bought into the lie that we could bring the kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven” by loudly decrying all that we are against? How many times have we believed that if we could just wield the weapons of this world more effectively and more efficiently than our opponents, we could win “the battle for the heart and soul of our culture?”
When Jesus was preparing the twelve disciples for his inevitable departure, he told them in no uncertain terms, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Time and again, Jesus warned his followers that their calling was to be different from the world – to stand out in contrast to its ways and its values.
“A new command I give you,” Jesus said. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
It’s not about our t-shirts, picket signs, yard signs, or social media posts. It’s not about the way we demolish our opponents by viciously exposing every hole in their position. It’s not by tearing others down in order for us to feel larger by comparison. It’s not about winning the argument if that comes at the expense of genuine relationships built of love. The world will know that we are disciples of Christ by our love.
This loves that breaks down divisions and unites people of faith is not a vague platitude or fuzzy emotion. It is described in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians as patient, kind, humble, honorable, generous, kind, forgiving, protecting, trusting, and is firmly grounded in hope.
As I look at the state of our world today, I hope and pray that we will not end up selling our souls to the Devil, all in the pursuit of being “right.”