I recall an afternoon several years ago. As with most of my long-term memories the circumstances, themes and emotions are vivid, while the details totally escape me.
The afternoon in question I was driving some friends home after church, and there was a conversation that went in a direction I thought was inappropriate, and I said so. One of my friends responded with words to the effect of “Why are you being so holier than thou?”
I wasn’t trying to give that impression, I was only speaking honestly according to the prompting of my conscience.
This vignette was brought back to my recollection yesterday while reflecting on another incident, which had just occurred.
A dear friend had invited me to attend a presentation about a business opportunity. As I watched and listened it became clear to me that I was being sold a pyramid scheme. I told my friend I couldn’t deal with this company, and that she should walk away too, explaining that the business model was unethical and possibly illegal, and if she made money out of it, it would be at the expense of people joining the scheme later.
I told her that while there was nothing wrong with making money, as long as it doesn’t involve the abuse of other people,
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
As a God-fearing woman I thought she would find my argument completely persuasive, but in fact she couldn’t understand or accept what I was saying. She didn’t accuse me of sanctimony, but all we could do was agree to disagree.
These situations remind me that even when we think we’re on the same page, we’re not always reading it from the same viewpoint, and our differences can reveal themselves at unexpected times.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but while we have this in common, our sins are not necessarily the same. One man may be generous with his money but fall easily into lustful thoughts. Another might show kindness to strangers but speak crudely and cruelly to his friends.
And our different weaknesses affect our interactions with each other in different ways. Perhaps we find it easier to notice (and judge) those sins that we feel immune to ourselves. Or maybe our awareness of our own faults make us more sensitive to those same faults in others
But even when we refrain from judgment, and just make known our moral position in a particular situation, we can cause discomfort or offence, often unintentionally.
It’s easy to see how a person of faith, who values God’s moral law above society’s, can often swim against the tide of popular opinion. We see it in the news regularly.
But it’s also true that scripture has so many nuances and possible interpretations – through which God speaks to so many unique individuals – that we can also find ourselves swimming against the tide of accepted wisdom: of our local church, of our denomination, or even of the worldwide Christian faith. This is how churches split, and it can also be how we as individuals become separated from our closest brothers and sisters in Christ.