I stood there shaking my head. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Earlier this year, I was having a conversation with a pastor who was about five years my junior (approximately 38 years old). He was telling me that recently his parents (his dad is also a pastor) just up and told him that they didn’t like or agree with his wife’s choice of clothing.
Really? This still happens? Incredulous as it may seem and sad to say, but it happens more often than not. For some time, I have pondered this dynamic. The reason I use the word dynamic as a noun (i.e., a basic or dynamic force, especially one that motivates, affects development or stability) here is simple. These type of conversations or should I say “imperatives” usually do not end well but they definitely affect the development and stability of relationships. Why does a well-intentioned Christian feel the need to tell other Christians (especially adult family members) how they should live, especially in preferential matters?
I have a confession to make – I’ve been that person in the past. And I’m continuing to purge this divisive, disruptive, even devilish spirit. The following are reasons I believe that Christians act this way:
Pride – I find this monster in almost every relationship squabble. And why wouldn’t I? The wise man in Proverbs tells us that “only by pride cometh contention.” It is pride that tells someone where they are wrong in areas of preference (or areas where the Bible is silent). How? Because at the same time you are telling someone they are wrong, you are setting your opinion (even if it is a personal conviction) up as right. I cannot find one time that Jesus ever addressed one of his disciples in areas of preference in the New Testament. He never one time (at least revealed to us in the Holy Canon) rebuked Peter for an unkempt beard or John for a manner of dress “unfitting for a disciple.”
I struggle often with pride. Why? Because I like to think that the decisions I have made are right. And if I’m right, bless God, everyone else is wrong! Looking back, the confidence and boldness of the fundamental, Bible-believing movement had a strong pull for me. What I didn’t realize is that much of that confidence/boldness stinks with pride. And before long, I was spouting to those around me how they were wrong in many areas of life.
I’m thankful that God (and many others, including my bro-in-law Gary Byrd) has had grace with me as I have grown in my spirit toward others. I have a long ways to go.
Fear – Having stepped back and analyzed this subject, I believe two fears surface in this situation. First, fear of being wrong. Egad! Most Bible-believers, especially leaders, (I know – I’ve been there too often) have the most difficult time admitting that something they taught or have believed could be wrong. This is a big fear and primarily aligned with point number one – that of pride. Let me give you an example: I went to a Bible college that taught topical preaching was the correct way to preach. Not only was topical preaching taught, other types of preaching (specifically expository) were subject to ridicule and disdain. I have been publicly preaching since 2002. Ninety-five percent of the messages I have preached have been topical sermons. However, over the last couple of years, I have attended some workshops that have opened my eyes concerning expository preaching and the Biblical merits of such preaching. I have come to realize that expository preaching is solid, Scriptural, and less prone to cater to “hobby-horse” topics (we all have them). I have had to swallow my pride and admit that there is a better way than I have believed in the past and taught to others.