I’m writing on a topic that I still am a young student with. This is a tough one for me, so bear with me as I write.
Danny and Chris Colucci used to disciple my husband and me. Danny staunchly felt that it was more important to be in right relationship than it was to be right. This man is a Bible teacher and knows the word. He is not talking about compromising on Truth. He is encouraging us to lay down our right to be right. This is a tough topic in that we don’t want to be walked all over either. But I wonder about that… when did Jesus ever say not to be walked on? If anything, the Lord demonstrated that while we were yet sinning, He died for us. We, in essence, walked all over our Savior, when He willingly allowed the travesty. In addition, He washed the feet of His betrayer. But it’s not just Jesus…Paul chooses to not take funds from the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9). The 1 Corinthians passage is interesting in that Paul chooses to explain himself (verse 12) perhaps because of an accusation coming against him, but even in his explanation it is more of a defense for the gospel than it is for himself (verse 23).
verse 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. (NIV)
verse 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
In order for us to rightly divide the word on how to respond when misunderstood it seems we need to stay in constant contact with the Father and follow His promptings for guidance on obedience.
As I read the Scriptures, I find plenty of times when Paul (2 Corinthians 10 – 13:10) or Peter (Acts 11) would explain their actions. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians are especially harsh. But even so he is imploring the Corinthians to contend for the faith rather than contend against him for he is weak, low, etc. It seems not so much as a defense but as a point of further educating on how to live as believers or to point others to the gospel and to cling to that which they know.
If we look at Colossians 1, we see Paul focused more on the defense of his mission to the gentiles and at times, defending his role as pastor and teacher to the churches highlighting the call he received from God. But in all this it is to ‘strenuously contend’ with all energy to present followers as mature in Christ. So, still it seems any defense is for the sake of (1) Encouraging to follow right teaching (2) Believers to walk rightly or (3) Defending the gospel. The apostles have nothing to gain now from this world, continuing to give everything away and up, including their right to be understood desiring to be all things to all people so that some may be won over to the faith (1 Corinthians 9). There is very little of ‘self’ that seems to part of the equation of defense.
This is so counter cultural to what I have been trained in, inculcated in really, in our culture. We are supposed to be heard, understood, acknowledged. But I’m daily being challenged to give up my right to be right as I stay in the word and desire to walk in obedience while living in the community of believers and reaching out to those who have yet to receive.
Telling on myself:
Two recent situations (if you’re in community, you have stories!)
Situation 1: A very dear friend of mine and I were talking one day and she said something about my children that caught me off guard – the last statement was ‘this really surprised me to see in your kids.’ I wasn’t sure where she was coming from, but it seemed accusatory. To step in with a defense at the time was certainly inappropriate because of two things (1) I was tired and didn’t trust my ability to stay level headed and (2) I didn’t have the energy to really understand what she might have been trying to communicate. In the very least, self control in faith gave me an assist to defer the situation.
Shortly thereafter, I had a conversation with the boys and learned what happened from their perspective. Both of their stories were the same. I went back to my friend and explained the situation when I had both a clear head and a clear heart. I let her know that I didn’t bring this up earlier because I didn’t want to appear defensive and wanted to be open to a dialogue. We had a great conversation. I don’t know that either of us walked away with the whole picture, but both of us walked away with a unity and love between us, knitted in Christ. The details didn’t matter as much as Christ in us – the hope of glory.
Situation 2: My father and I just recently had a very large misunderstanding. So large that within 20 minutes of the conversation he decided to call off the cruise that we were about to take him on in two weeks!
To make a long ordeal short, I was actually fine with the calling off of the cruise. I felt he was completely wrong and if he wanted to play the game that way that was fine with me! Made my life a lot simpler.
But then he pulled the rug out a second time when he said had changed his mind and now wanted to go on the cruise. Funny that now that he wanted back in, I was ready to back out! The reason? I felt completely misunderstood and now justified to just can the whole transaction. But Christ in me – the hope of glory, prevented my adolescent attitude from taking hold.
There’s much more to the story – emails of apology, brief dialogues to ‘patch things up’, encouragement and gentle nudges from wise sisters in Christ, setting up some boundaries for the future. But the bottom line is this – I could stand on the fact that I was right – that dad should not have done this to us but what would that have gotten any of us? I would have been, at best, partially right and miserable. Christ in me shows a more excellent way: To put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
And just like with my dear friend example in situation #1, I don’t know that either Dad or I truly understands the sacrifice the other made. But our God does. Does it seem like I’m ‘settling’? By the world’s standards, absolutely! But Christ’s approach is foolishness to the world. I choose the folly of Christ rather than the world’s wisdom and ways (1 Corinthians 1:18). The result was knitted hearts and Christ in me – the hope of glory.
If this seems an oversimplification, consider this question: What or who is complicating the matter? Is it really that complicated or is our need to be right creating all sorts of what ifs, thens, buts, that prevent us from just kneeling down, taking the towel and washing the feet of our brother and sister.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13: 12-17)