A Facebook and real life friend posed a series of question recognizing that even in our best attempts to achieve balance, thoughtfulness, and wise perspective and action that we do, in fact, err quite often. He asks:
“If the balance is between being too lenient or too harsh, where is it better to err?
Too inclusive or too exclusive?
Too peaceful or too violent?
Defending the vulnerable or defending the comfortable?
We will never be perfect. But I think we can choose our errors better."
If so, how then do we decide where to err? We all do you know. We’re inclined to put too much emphasis on this as opposed to that. We make errors of both judgment and action.
Anita asked me the other night when we finished watching a couple of movies about apartheid in South Africa. “So, if you were a white man in South Africa at the time ...would you stand on the side of justice even if it might mean losing your family’s affection?” A good question. In light of the information provided by the movie we were watching I told her that “justice appeared to be the nobler and more Godly road. If faced with the same circumstances I’d pray for the courage to follow the path of justice.” (Please understand this is in light of the context of the particular drama we were watching)
So, where do we decide to err? Our senior pastor at Christ Church believes that when in doubt we should err on the side of grace. Others can’t abide by that recommendation especially if their version of truth is being challenged. To err on the side of truth is always best from their vantage point.
I’m inclined to believe that it’s usually best to err on the side of the response that is the least harsh but still measured enough to be impactful. I should mention, however, that this is not my natural inclination. I have a very strong ‘judgment gene’ and a highly functional ‘truth meter’. My natural reaction is to be hard, not soft. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately that has never served me well. My truth and judgment responses seem to always come across as anger, intolerance and scolding. Very rarely (perhaps never) do they come across as thoughtful and affirming.The sad thing is that in my desire to correct that reactivity I have found myself becoming too soft even when the circumstances demanded a harder edge. Where’s balance when one needs it, eh?
The truth is that my knee jerk responses based in and anger and judgment usually cause harm or at the very least elevates the tension. Now, I realize that there are some things I need to be justifiably angry about but even then will I error on the side of having a measured, thoughtful response or will I just unload?
Jack Connell wrote a thoughtful peace on the Christianity Today website. It’s called Ministry Mulligans. http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/winter/ministrymulligans.html?start=1
Having to do it all over again he’d be:
More collaborative, less competitive.
Choose more rest, less rush
Choose more friendship, less isolation.
I’d choose to be more trustful and less wary. I’d choose renewal over procrastination and intentionality over reaction. For sure I’d listen more and talk less. I’d follow the nudges of God instead of the schemes of my imagination.
Instead of feeding the shadow side of my personality I’d feed those things God could use for His purposes. It’s sad to think that the purposes of God are not always second nature to me.
I think our senior guy at our church is more right than not. Err on the side of grace. That doesn’t mean one becomes a punching bag or has no opinion. It simply means that one finds his/her power in the grace of God which often looks like a lack of power to the casual observer.
I’m also inclined to believe that it’s wiser to err on the side of those who have lost their voice, who are marginalized, and who are being treated unjustly. The old saying that “Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” still makes gospel sense to me.
And for those who wonder. I would certainly stand up for truth. But in more grace filled ways, asking more questions. There are too many angry people pounding desks, pulpits, and even other people in the defense of God who is very capable of standing up for Himself.