Last week, I talked about taking a stand, how when I was a new Christian, I was taught that if don’t stand for something I’ll fall for anything. So I took lots of stands. I drew many lines in the sand. I was convinced and committed.
Shortly after college, I took a stand on an issue that cost me a friendship. Though I was disappointed to lose my friend, I felt I was the one being persecuted for taking a stand. I regretted nothing. I stood firm. For years, my friend and I didn’t speak. Not because I wasn’t willing to still be his friend, but because in the process of taking a stand, I had failed to love him as I should have. He was hurt.
Years later, an autoimmune disorder threatened my life and left me temporarily paralyzed. At the time, I didn’t know it was temporary, though. Before I regained the use of my legs, I ended up in a rehabilitation hospital where I was supposed to learn how to live as a paraplegic. Somehow, the friend whom I’d hurt so badly got wind of my illness and he came to visit me. We both cried when we saw one another; it had been about eight years. We hugged. We laughed. We had a nice long visit. But then we went our separate ways. He had forgiven me, but the deep bond of friendship we shared before had been broken.
Ironically, the issue I took such a strong stand on before is one I’m regularly confronted with now, and I’ve taken a completely different stand. It’s not exactly a change of belief; it’s more a commitment to love God and love others, regardless of what I believe. It’s a stand that feels more biblical to me and one I’ve taken about many issues. It prioritizes listening over speaking. It preferences being kind over being right. And it requires that I remain humble and open, when pride is always right there, tempting me to think more of myself than others.
That doesn’t mean I do this right all the time. You’re probably not surprised to learn that I still take a stand and demand to be heard more times than not, and often about the most ridiculous things — like whether dishes go in the sink or dishwasher or whether laundry goes on the floor or in the basket.
I also still worry that if I don’t take a stand for something, I’ll fall for anything. With my social media feeds filled with every possible issue I could take a stand on, I’m tempted to choose sides. Especially when one side or another says that if I don’t choose theirs, it means I’m on the wrong side. And I like to be right.
But life’s circumstances and the issues du jour keep changing. There’s a lot of flip-flopping going on, and not just by politicians. Some may feel they are growing, and the change in position represents a more mature view. Others may feel they have to take a stronger stand because suddenly their position is in the minority. Today, it might feel worth it to lose a few Facebook friends or even a real life friend. But taking a stand has real consequences. So does the way you take a stand. You may not realize it now, but someday you might change your mind or find yourself in a new set of circumstances with a new perspective. And later, like me, you might find yourself feeling differently about the whole thing, but the damage has been done.
In James 4, we find some guidance about making claims and taking stands. In verse 13, James begins: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
True, this passage is more about making plans than taking a stand, but for both, the reality of an unknown future ought to leave us more humble. It’s not the plans or the stand that God has a problem with. It’s the pride.
So many issues facing us today, just like the issues that were facing me 20 years ago, don’t have simple answers from Scripture. As I’ve said before, I no longer say, “The Bible clearly says” because God’s Word was never meant to be an owners manual with easy-to-follow instructions. It was meant to be a love letter from our Beloved who wants a lasting relationship with us. It was meant to be wisdom from our Father who wants us to grow up into maturity. It was meant to be a map to guide us and a lamp to light our way. And if there’s anything the Bible does clearly say, it’s this: We are to love God and love others. If we don’t at least do that much that we know to do, James says we’re sinning.
Perhaps the best way to remain humble and open is to take the stand you feel best demonstrates your love for God and others, while acknowledging that your friends and neighbors and family members may be taking a different stand for the same reason. With that much in common, maybe we’ll have less regret and sweeter communion with God and others — even 20 years from now.
If our faith has changed so far, who’s to say it won’t change again? Our four-week series, A Change of Heart, will explore all the ways that what we believe changes, grows, and varies over the years. I want us to move beyond regret but also pride, or the sense that we’ve finally arrived, not only so we can deal more kindly with ourselves, but also so we can be people who accept that others are on the same journey.