For most of my life, I thought when it came to God, Jesus and the holy Bible, I had to always be right. Considering another point of view was darn near close to entertaining demons.
These were the subjects that there could be no disagreement on. After all, that was grounds for heresy.
I liked everything neat, orderly and absolute. After all, if I was certain of things God-related, then my worries of life should be all but small, right? And when someone stepped on the toes of my perfectly organized beliefs I was afraid (for them of course) and determined to set them straight – because after all, I had figured everything out.
An interesting thing about life is that it is continually a teacher; if we let it be.
Every person, interaction and new experience has the ability to stretch us and grow us. As life hit me, many of my structured beliefs began to crack. The absolute, black and white world I lived in buckled under the weight of messy people and messy situations. The two could not stand arm in arm.
I soon realized life and people and situations…..are anything but black and white.
It’s easy to believe those who don’t claim “Jesus” are destined for hell, until your new co-worker is a Buddhist and lives more of the Christian lifestyle than any of your “Christian” friends. It’s easy to say God damns all gay people to hell, until your child comes out.
It’s easy to whitewash everyone with different political beliefs as agents of satan, until you fall in love with someone who votes differently than you. It’s easy to say everyone who commits adultery is a terrible person until it’s your best friend….and the situation is just complicated.
It’s easy to say everyone who has an abortion is guilty of committing murder, until you listen to the story of a 14 year old who was raped by her father and believed he would rape her child as well….
It’s easy to say pre-marital sex is the ultimate no-no, until it’s you.
Yes, it is far easier to point the finger and label things we don’t understand or have context of, as wrong or sinful. Rather than to look inward and explore how many areas of grey and free-passes we extend to ourselves.
Yes, life is anything but black and white.
As I’ve grown and eaten loads of humility, I’ve learned I don’t know everything. In fact, I may never know everything, especially when it comes to God and what he absolutely would or would not approve of.
Because God is so much bigger than me…and that.
In walking the roads I have traveled, I encountered God in profound ways. The same God I knew when I was a teenager is the same God I know now – it’s just gotten so much better.
The beliefs and opinions I hold now, I have not come to lightly. They developed over years of wrestling with scripture and God and Spirit (and people) until I landed in a bloody pool of tears. The words and beliefs I share now come from a place of depth that I do not expect everyone to understand.
And that is okay.
However, the more open I’ve become about my progressive beliefs, the more bothered my previous friends and followers became. I receive messages, emails and texts from former friends who are “concerned” about me and my faith.
But, I always find it a bit strange when someone who hasn’t talked to you in years, all of the sudden reaches out to “correct” something you said on Facebook. (I’m always like, ummm, hi?? Nice to hear from you??)
And why is that? Why do they not choose to reach out when they learn my marriage is falling apart, but instead reach out when I post something they feel goes against their “set beliefs”? I imagine they must think there can’t be any disagreement about God either…and maybe the rest of my life doesn’t matter as much as that…
As for me, I’ve chosen to live my life built on relationships – not built on an agreed statement of beliefs.
Because, that is how Jesus lived. He was surrounded by people of many different backgrounds and beliefs. He didn’t shun those who thought differently or who asked questions (unlike the religious camp). Instead, he broke bread with all kinds of people and connected with them.
Maybe that is why he stood up for the woman caught in adultery? Maybe that is why he healed the sick without asking for a confession of faith (even on the Sabbath)? Maybe that is why he (as a Jew) talked to a Samaritan woman as an equal and didn’t shame her? Maybe that is why he told a story of a “good Samaritan” which in that culture didn’t exist?
Maybe that is why Jesus continually challenged stereotypes and religious no-no’s; because he existed in an area that wasn’t so black and white – he existed with humans.
One of my favorite things about the Jewish culture is how they debate and view learning. In an article, The Art of Debate: Jewish Style it states, “In traditional Jewish books of learning, the concepts of beginning and end do not exist. It is all about the middle — about the dialogues, the discourse, the exchange of ideas…” They will wrestle and wrestle over scripture, over ideas, over theology – and walk out the best of friends.
Because they believe debate – disagreements – are good, healthy and OKAY.
And so, it’s now become my mantra to be comfortable with disagreements. I’ve embraced the idea that having differing views is okay – healthy even – so long as it is respectful. That we can be friends even if we don’t agree on everything; in fact we may be even better friends, because we will probably challenge and stretch eachother.
Because we all come with contexts and experiences of our own.
Each of us have traveled journeys unique to us. And, I trust that your beliefs (whatever they may be) have not come without grueling experiences – which is why I respect them and would not try to change them. They are possibly experiences that I can learn from.
Your journey is valid. And so is mine. We are all traveling on this wild, road together. When we encounter differences, we can set the tone for how they go. We can choose whether someone will leave feeling our love or feeling judged and like we carry a better-than attitude. We can pause and remember there is more to the person in front of us than our disagreement.
Fear is the ultimate enemy of love. Choose not to fear what you may not relate to or understand. Instead, press in and be a good listener – who knows, you may actually learn something.
It’s okay for someone to believe differently than you. It’s even okay to disagree. The world will not fall apart. I promise 🙂