Updated: Jan 11, 2021
Loose Opinions, Tight Love
We all got ‘em.
Mountains or beach?
Chick-Fil-A or Cane’s?
Football or baseball?
Paper or plastic?
Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter?
Let’s not even think about the thermostat… It’ll get heated real quick.
(Yep, pun intended. Couldn’t resist!)
And if you live in Oklahoma, it’s Sooners or Cowboys.
That last one might lose you a few friends, too.
But sadly, it’s not just the last one. Far too often, we choose our opinions over the people around us. From dinner choices to the cars we drive, places we visit, ways we raise and discipline our children, beliefs we hold, politics we support. The list goes on and on.
We live in a world with a wealth of opinions. And just like financial wealth, it can control us if we’re not careful. I wish I were exaggerating.
But I’m not.
It dictates where we live and why we don’t live there, what we do and why we don’t do that, who we do it with and why we don’t do it with them, when we do it and why we don’t do it then, why we even do or don’t do it at all.
How do we get out from under the control of our opinions?
Well, in short, we follow Andy Bernard's advice in The Office, and we slow our words so they're...
...like molasses just sort of spilling out of your mouth. -Andy Bernard, The Office
I hope you can hear the slow, Southern twang in that line. It gets me every time!
We don't want our words to spill out carelessly. We want to be slow and thoughtful and gentle.
And the thing is, we don't have to go far to see this.
My opinions - when I'm at work, at home, at dinner, in the car, on the phone, over email, over text - want to come out like melted butter rather than stalled molasses.
We must practice this. We must make the choice to intentionally slow down and focus on learning what is important to those around us.
It's a discipline our communities, our country and our world needs.
And it starts with us.
A Messy Minefield
There are always sides to every opinion, and if you go far enough out on either side, you find yourself in the land of the extreme. The center of this world of opinions - it's kind of like a minefield.
A messy, dangerous minefield.
We don't typically live our day-to-day lives concerned with minefields. Thankfully so. The closest I've come to experiencing a dangerous minefield is during game night when we choose to play Code Names.
Such a great game, y'all. For all ages. I know the label on the box will sometimes say this, but it's not always true. This time, it is.
One Christmas, we had everyone gathered around playing - ranging from my seven-year-old nephew (who would incidentally point at the words he was trying to be mysterious about) to my lovely grandmother who recently celebrated eighty years. Great game, I recommend it!
Basically, you have a set of random words and you try to draw connections between these, so you can give your team a code word that will lead them to guess the right cards. For example, you may say, "Dentist for 2" to lead them to guess "decay" and "root" at the same time.
But you have to be careful, because there's one word in every round that is the end-all card. It's the mine. Whatever you do, you don't want your team to guess or even approach this word.
What happens if they do?
So, although you may think of "canal" as the Panama canal, your teammates get stuck overthinking, or possibly even under-thinking, and draw a connection to a root canal. And now, you're sunk.
Or, maybe done-done-done is more fitting.
Here's the thing about minefields - we're afraid to approach.
It's much safer on the outskirts. That's why we stick to our extremes. It's comfortable. And there's one thought that we can play on repeat as we sit in our extremes. It's the thought of, "You're wrong. I'm right. No questions asked."
Eek. No questions asked.
Yeah, that's the problem with the extreme. There's no room for curiosity. No room for listening.
And it's easy to see why - we all hang out in the extremes because everyone's afraid of the center. We congregate with those who see things like we do. So much so that we don't even see ourselves as “extreme.”
They're extreme. We're normal. I don't know why they can't see it my way.
Not only is there no room for listening, there's no concern for it. No thought of it.
You might be thinking, “That's not true. I hear so many opinions every day.”
And that's just it. We hear.
But do we listen?
That would require stepping towards the minefield. And c'mon now - we don't want to do that!
There's unseen hazards! Maybe even explosives!
I don’t know where to step. I’m safer right here. I’ll stay right where I’m at.
But the problem with this is - the distance grows. The farther we get from the other side of the tracks, the harder it is to see what’s on the other side. We once saw people but now they’re just blurry objects, resembling something rather than a someone.
And that’s where the real danger lies - when we hold our opinions closer than we hold human beings.
Our perspective - our stance - creates distance. Even if we wanted to close the gap - ever so slightly, we don’t know how.
We’re afraid of what to say, what to do. Or, we're afraid that if we say nothing and do nothing, it will continue. We're afraid of what might happen. We're afraid of what has happened.
Bottom line - we're afraid.
The thing about fear, well Jesus is the only man I know of who did not live in fear. So maybe it’s worth listening to what His Word has to say on the matter.
In the book of 1 John, we learn,
There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear. -1 John 4:18
This passage goes on to share one of the most convicting words of truth in the Bible. If you read it and feel like you just stubbed your big toe, or better yet, dropped a cast iron skillet on your whole foot, you’re not alone. I’m right there with ya.
We love because he first loved us. -1 John 4:19
Wait for it…
Whoever claims to love God yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For whoever does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love his brother. -1 John 4:20-21
I know. That’s a lot to swallow. Let’s digest this in bite-size pieces.
Bite one - We are made to be loving.
Bite two - We are only able to love others because God first loved us.
Bite three - Ask yourself, “Do I claim to love God?”
Bite four - If the answer is yes - We claim to love God, who is love, then…
Bite five - Then, I must love others.
Not should. Not could. Not when I feel like it. Not when they are easy to love. Not when they love me. Not when we agree.
It’s a command. Anyone who loves God must also love his brother.
Even those who look different than me? Who live in different countries, states or neighborhoods? Go to different schools? Work in different jobs? Speak different languages? Go to different churches? Vote for different leaders and initiatives?
…Even those with different opinions than me?
And if I don’t?
Well, the Word is clear. It reveals me to be a liar.
Sounds harsh, but it’s true. If I can’t love others - the people who God has made - then how can I love their Creator?
I can’t. And if I say I love their Creator but have hatred in my heart towards the people who bear His image, then I am...
Lying reveals us to be foolish. The Word of God is very clear -
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. - Proverbs 18:2
Anyone else think of Mr. T's "I pity the fool" when you started reading this scripture?
Just me? Alright...
Anyway... again and again in scripture, we see wisdom align with understanding. We get wrapped in foolishness when we are only concerned with expressing our opinions.
It's not saying that we should never express our opinions, simply it's not our first responsibility. Understanding is our first step.
None of us wake up wanting to be foolish or living out the 1997 movie Liar Liar. Jim Carrey’s hilarious, but lying…not so much. It hurts people. It destroys relationships. It's sometimes even the GAME OVER card in our relationships.
So why does this keep happening?
Maybe we haven’t realized how serious God is about loving others.
He’s very serious about it. So much so, that He sent His Son to die on a cross because He loved the world.
Not because He loved Christians. Not because He loved His followers. Not because He loved the good ones, the pretty ones, the clean ones.
No, because He loved THE WORLD.
So how do we do this? How do we love others who aren't like us?
It’s hard. Our nature is to choose sides. To be right. To separate. To hold our opinions. To hold our right-ness.
I think maybe one of the most loving things we can do is listen.
Maybe Drew Holcomb can shed some light. He sings,
...Another person's point of view, try to listen not to shout. Hold your opinions loosely maybe you're not always right. Show a little mercy, and hold on to love real tight.... -Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Wild World
What if - just what if - we held on to love as tightly as we hold on to our opinions?
What if love came first?
What would change? Would we fear the other extreme less? Would we approach the messy minefield with strength that we’re not alone? Would we recognize God’s initiation of love leading us towards one another instead of away?
Would we find joy in coming together and learning from one another? Would we find peace in unity and rest in humility?
I believe so.
Let’s live loved today. Let’s put others first.
Before our opinions.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!