truth be told, i have a lot of pet peeves. i can’t stand when people slurp when they drink out of a cup (worse than nails on a chalkboard for me), snow (that’s not in the mountains when i’m skiing) bugs the $*#^!&! out of me, and when i hear someone say “we let women lead” i go a little nuts inside. but my new #1 pet peeve at the moment is when people ask the question: what’s your position on _________? (homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, gun control, hell, you name it). it’s the question of the moment not only for many church or ministry leaders but on facebook, blogs, and in certain christian circles.
we all know what that really means.
how can i determine whether i am aligned with you or not aligned with you?
how can i know if you’re on our team or the other one?
how can i sniff out whether i can trust you or not?
please know i am not saying we should never ask questions that help us understand where other people are coming from or share our perspectives freely. it’s great to have deeper dignified dialogue despite our differences and own our opinions. however, my experience with the question “what’s your position on?” is that it usually ends up in a dead-end where things become black or white, on or off, in or out, i-still-respect-you or i-am-not-so-sure-i-can-anymore.
there are many other better, more thoughtful questions that could be asked instead, like:
how are you navigating some of these complicated issues in your own life and soul? in your community?
how are you wrestling with Jesus’ ways through these tensions?
what are you learning about yourself as you wrestle with them? about God? about others?
how are you seeing God at work in your life, in the lives of those around you?
how are you participating in bringing people together around hard topics and creating safe places to share?
and most importantly: how are you actually loving your neighbors these days?
when i think of Jesus’ interactions with the pharisees, i see them constantly chiding him with the same question: “what’s your position on…?” over and over, they were trying to pin him down, and he did not give them the kind of black and white answer they anticipated. instead, he kept reminding them that their addiction to the law was really a waste of time in a kingdom economy. he responded with better, deeper questions that were tough to answer and required hearts not minds.
our obsession with positions is a great distraction.
we are spending an awful lot of energy building camps and erecting walls, thinking unity is uniformity. it’s not.[quote type=”center”]true unity is living in the tension of a lot of different positions and still loving each other. it’s standing shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and eye to eye in relationship with people who see important things differently but respecting their perspectives and theological conclusions.[/quote]
it’s letting go of needing to control other people or work our agenda. it’s remaining secure in what God is stirring up in our hearts and let others hold to what he’s stirring up in them. it’s owning and respecting that others can still be hearing from God in their way, even if it is on different sides of an issue. as parker palmer so wisely says, “the highest form of love is the love that allows for intimacy without the annihilation of difference.”
when it’s all said and done, the question “what’s your position on _____?” will never get us anywhere. it’ll keep us stuck. it’ll keep us divided. it’ll keep perpetuating homogeneous groups that swing to the left or to the right. it’ll keep killing off more & more people’s desire to even be part of christianity anymore.
my hope, my heart, is that we can individually and corporately ask better questions and have better conversations, that we can allow room for wide and beautiful differences but still live under the same tent. that we can clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” and over all things “put on love, which binds us all together in perfect unity” (colossians 3: 12, 14).
i’m so grateful to be part of a community that is trying to do this as best we can. it’s messy, it’s tricky, it’s uncomfortable, and all of the effort it takes kicks our butts some days more than others. but the more i see it in action, the more i know it’s the right direction for the future. there’s a whole new generation of men & women of all ages, shapes & sizes who aren’t looking for comfortable but are hoping to find spaces and places to wrestle with our personal views on tough issues and not be fed “right” answers.
uniformity might look stronger and cleaner on the surface, but its very foundation on rightness & pride is faulty.
unity might look weird and tangled and confusing on the surface, but underneath it’s incredibly strong and powerful.
please, may we lay down our need to know people’s positions and instead find ways to know people’s hearts.
that’s worth fighting for.