When my dad was a kid and somebody would break a flower pot or something and nobody would own up to it, my pap-pap would line up my dad and his 11 brothers and sisters, take off his belt, and hit each of them with his belt until somebody owned up to it. Half the time it wasn’t even the one who did it that admitted to it. The “guilty party” would then be beaten with the belt until pap-pap was satisfied.
Now my dad knew this wasn’t right. Might makes right? Heavens, no.
So when I was a kid, my dad did his best to give us a world of security. A world where right makes right. Where we could be safe if we were right. It was a legal kind of world, where if you weren’t guilty, you were safe. And the Bible was our Constitution, our final authority.
Now you would think that this would be a better alternative, and you’d be right. Only problem was, it turned me into a lawyer – a lawyer skilled in arguing and brilliant in proofs from the Bible. Anyone who knows me probably sees where this is going.
In short, in the world I grew up in, if I could successfully argue from the Bible that I was right, and convince the highest power in my world (my dad) that it was so, I would gain control of my world. If I could gain control of my world, then I would be safe. Naturally, like all sinners, I believed that I was right, even when I wasn’t. Because being right would mean that I was safe.
These were all lies.
I argued because I wanted to prove that I was right.
I wanted to prove that I was right so that I could control my world.
I wanted to control my world so that I would be safe.
In short, I argued so that I could be safe.
And then came the gospel, proclaiming that God loves me, and that my safety is found in God’s love for me. This was life-changing. I am safe not because I am right, and not even because I control my life, but because God loves me, and God is in control.
Immediately, I set out to argue from the Bible that I was right that my safety was in God’s love, trying to convince the highest power in my world (my dad) that it was so, so that I could be safe in God’s love for me.
I had heard the good news that I was safe in God’s love, and I had believed it. But instead of letting it overhaul my entire system, I imported it into my current system. Whenever I saw my dad, we would argue theology – me trying to prove that both he and I were safe because we were loved. I was trying to convince him that I was right about it so that it would be true, rather than residing in that truth.
I realized last night that arguing for God’s love for me comes more naturally to me than accepting it.
But what if I’m wrong? Which is more important?
I am safe because God loves me,
or I am safe because I am right that God loves me?
The difference is subtle, but critical. If I believe the former, my rightness and wrongness is of no account. If I believe the latter, then I should argue that God loves me, and God’s love for me is of no account unless I am also right.
And every new person who comes along who disagrees with me must be proven wrong in order for me to be safe.
This idea is hazardous to my life. It is contradictory to the gospel, and it has the opposite effect. Instead of seeing those around me (particularly those who disagree with me) as others whom God loves, as Beautiful Unrepeatable Miracles handcrafted in His image and likeness, I see them as threats – people who could potentially prove me wrong about God’s love for me and make me unsafe.
I put off writing this blog because I was afraid that if I wrote it, it would be so that I could be safe by proving that I was right that my safety wasn’t in my being right. Being safe not because I am right but because I am loved is foreign to me. I’m still realizing the places that it has infiltrated. In some ways, my system is so far soaked in it that I am undoing it so that I can be right and be safe! Pray for me, and I will pray for me… and in the meanwhile, try to accept God’s love for you, as I try to accept God’s love for me, and try to love others out of that love, as I will try to love others out of that love.
I’ve anchored my soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
The tempest may sweep over the wild, stormy deep,
In Jesus, I’m safe evermore.
“The Haven of Rest,”
by Henry L. Gilmour and George D. Moore