From Preference to Deference
I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every time I (or someone else) used the argument “but this is really important to me. I feel very strongly about this.”
I bet you’d be rich too.
In our current culture, passionate feelings are the deciding factor for much of what is said or done. Unfortunately, this has also bled into the church. As far as arguments go, what I feel passionately about is just as much a winner as the slippery slope argument. It effectively shuts down all conversation, and removes from ourselves the responsibility to respond like Christ.
And don’t get me wrong, there are some things we should feel very strongly about. Those opinions should be held with love and humility. Doctrine is one of those things. But, this article is not about doctrine that the Bible explicitly teaches, things that we need to insist on, teach and obey.
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. (Hebrews 2:1)
This article is about some church practices, some personal preferences, about which we could stand to exercise some deference.
Ideas and practices that we’ve brought up here before such as: new or old hymns; raising of hands; versions of the Bible; holidays; “Thees and Thous”, and so many more could be included. These are areas that we have very strong opinions and feelings about. Areas where we may even think (possibly erroneously) the Bible or God is on our side.
We often quote Philippians 2:5-11 in our breaking of bread and remembrance meetings. It’s a beautiful passage, and is actually titled in my Bible as Christ’s Example of Humility.
Paul is using Christ’s example of humility to reinforce the points that he made in verses 1-4. The verses that we know, but that can be uncomfortable to practice. Because it means showing deference to someone else, and letting go of our own strongly held positions in favor of theirs.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 ESV)
Christ’s example is one of leaving the highest position possible (one that we can barely fathom, and certainly have never been in) to take up the lowest position possible – death for the Prince of Life. The most shameful death, of a criminal, even though he was perfect, holy, spotless, blameless.
Wow. There really is no comparison between our petty issues and what Christ really gave up. It’s apples to oranges. And it really should give us pause.
Often I am seething because of the injustice of not getting my way. I’ve done…I think…I want…I-I-I.
Yet, Christ didn’t seethe, he humbled himself. His mind, (should be) my mind.
What if instead of feeling marginalized because Christmas program practice once again cuts into your Sunday school time (true story), you graciously accept it, knowing that this is something the other person is deeply interested and invested in?
What if instead of writing another passionate post about music, or letting air your passionate feelings about old versus new hymns, you defer to someone else’s opinions?
What if instead of insisting on your particular preferences for instruments, meeting times, Bible version, etc., you defer to your brother, counting him more significant than yourself?
What if you were to realize that other’s important things mean as much to them as your important things mean to you?
What if you are being called to put their interest before your own for the sake of Christ?
What if you said, “I see that means a lot to you. I’m going to let it go.”?
What if church life and practice is not a debate to be won with perfectly curated arguments illustrating, “why I am right?”
What if it’s not about winning or losing, but about a body, where all parts need to work together?
What if it’s about the glory of God?
What if, instead of making something a hill to die on, you make that something a thing to die to self on?
My own account
This deferring should go both ways. But, in fact, I’m only responsible for my actions. I will give an account for my actions. How cringe-worthy would it be to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, my Savior, the one who gave everything for my redemption, and shamefully admit that I was not willing to give in on the thing my brother felt strongly about!
What if we truly follow Christ’s example? That would be something!