Being right has never once resulted in a romantic encounter. April has not yet been so impressed with my reciting of the truth that a spark of passion was lit. Being right does not increase the warmth, safety or attraction of a relationship. I have had plenty of arguments with my wife, and every one of them was ignited by this thought: “I am right.” In my head I arrange my evidence, and it is clear to me that any jury would agree with me that I have the facts correct and she is wrong. I have often assumed her lack of understanding must be an auditory issue, so I increase my volume, always to no avail. Never once in the heat of an argument has she (or have I, for that matter) stopped and exclaimed, “You are right, I am wrong, have your way with me.” Not once in 31 years of marriage. Here is a little secret I have learned: the nicer I am, the more romance I get, and the better my relationship with my wife gets. I am not saying be nice so you can get some, I am saying it is the more natural response. I think a similar principle applies to theology. Not long ago, I began to re-evaluate my theological perspective. I come from a fundamentalist background, so I tended to think of the Bible as primarily a tool to win arguments. “You believe in evolution? Here is what the bible says. You are gay? Here is what the bible says. You believe in Jesus, love God, want peace in the world, but believe that Mary is without sin? Here is what the bible says.” Of course, it was what the bible says from my perspective, but I honestly used to wonder how a thinking person could see it differently. So I argued. I presented evidence. I tried to make others see how wrong and even stupid they were. And I did not make one convert, much less one friend. What changed my life and my theology was this single shift in my thinking: You are right when you are kind. Because of this shift, I no longer agonized about the Greek translation of obscure verbs. I ask “Will believing this make me kinder?” If, as the scriptures say, faith is validated by our actions, is not kindness the easiest and best test of rightness? I am annoyed by the current fried chicken debate, especially the apparent need of a few of my evangelical Christian family to prove that they are a powerful majority not to be trifled with. “Look, we can mobilize and create 3-hour waits for fast food chicken–you better watch out” seems to be their message. We have power, we are right, join our team seems as ineffective in evangelism as it does in romance. Has one person been persuaded that Jesus is the way because we proved our point? When did we begin to believe that our message would be heard if we could show our power? Why would a person who loves Jesus be motivated to make life harder for a gay person? Unless you feel that your own heterosexuality is in danger, why would you want a gay person to have fewer rights than you? Don’t my LGBT friends deserve to be treated kindly? Theology that does not result in kindness is heresy. The best apologetic is kindness. Imagine Jesus saying this: “When you give a drink of water to those who agree with you, that is good. When you clothe those who believe what you believe, that is what I want.” I think theology–what we believe about God and the world–is important. The difficult thing is to relinquish the power that comes from needing to believe I am right. Being right without being kind has made me feel powerful, but being kind without needing to be right has made me friends. Was the appeal of Jesus that He made a good point, or that He was kind to sinners?
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