Can two people think differently and BOTH be right? Is that possible?
One thinks we should open our borders; another thinks we should close them.
One thinks we should help the poor; another thinks we should hold them accountable.
One thinks we should focus on evangelism; another thinks we need more Bible study.
Can they both be right? Or does someone have to be wrong?
I once wrote about the contention between two giants of the Christian faith, St. Paul and St. Barnabas. I talked about how the world (and the Church) needed both points of view – the pillows and the swords as I referred to them – and that neither one has to be WRONG in order for another to be RIGHT.
This is usually where we get hung up – whether as a society, or a church, or even a family. We make the mistake of thinking that for me to be right, then you must be wrong. If you and I disagree, there can only be one right answer.
But is that always the case? Does someone HAVE to be wrong in order for you to be right?
Of course in some cases there is a clear right vs wrong (murder, adultery, stealing, lying, etc.) – but does that mean that in every case where two people differ in their views, one has to be wrong and another right?
People are different. From our fingerprints to our emotional makeup to our experiences growing up, we are each unique creations of God. We are not randomly designed, but rather “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
As such, we think differently. We talk differently. We react differently. We are different!
So far no one will disagree with me. But here comes the hard part: JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE IS DIFFERENT DOESN’T MAKE THEM WRONG. Different doesn’t mean wrong. It just means different.
I know it sounds simple enough, but it isn’t necessarily. It's our lack of ability to accept differences that causes much of the fighting and contention in the world today – and that includes in THE CHURCH TOO! And sadly it seems like the longer you are a Christian, the more likely you are to fall into (and justify) this trap – of thinking that you know the right way and everyone who disagrees must be wrong.
But there is hope! There’s one example I always run back to - an example that hit close to home - that reminds me that different doesn’t mean wrong; it just means different. It's me and my lovely wife, Marianne.
Anyone who knows us knows that I am a sword (yay swords!) and she is a pillow (booo pillows). No doubt about that one. You wouldn’t need to spend more than 5 minutes with us to figure out who the “nice" one is and who the "honest" one is.
From the very start I knew that we were inherently different. But that was ok because I loved those differences. Those differences are actually what attracted me most to her. I couldn’t marry another sword - we’d kill each other. A sword needs a nice soft pillow to land on to avoid damage. I loved the fact that she was different!
But with time, these differences often meant that we’d have different ideas about how to solve a problem or deal with an issue. I started to think that her way was wrong and my way was right. I didn’t realize that different doesn’t mean wrong; it just means different.
So I did what any loving husband would do… I TRIED TO FIX HER! That is, I tried to make her more like me. And she probably tried did the same to me. That's because we were looking at our differences in the wrong way. We saw them as detriments instead of as advantages.
Eventually we learned to value and appreciate our differences. We realized that God brought us together because He knew that those differences would add richness and balance to our marriage. He knew that my “swordness” needed a “pillow” like Marianne and vice versa.
Once we accepted and embraced this idea, God really opened our eyes to the beauty of marriage and how we were made to live. He made us realize that our differences – if we could learn to use them properly – would eventually be our greatest asset.
How do you see different? Is different wrong? Or is different just different?
If you don’t learn to accept the differences God has placed in others, you will never reach your maximum potential in life – especially if you are a leader of some sorts and are trying to get the most out of a group of people. That applies at work, at home, at church and in our nation as a whole.
Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different.
"ACCEPT one another, then, just as Christ ACCEPTED you, in order to bring praise to God." (Romans 15:7)