My friend Bethany helped me notice a trend awhile back, and I think she’s right:
Whenever we see other people holding themselves to a higher standard, we’re tempted to talk them out of their convictions, instead of letting them convict us, too.
When a friend refuses to watch certain types of movies or eat certain foods, the rest of us are quick to shout “grace” to make ourselves feel better.
We’d rather get defensive than deal with the possibility that maybe–just maybe–our friend is doing something respectable, and we feel like we’re underachieving…
We get even more uncomfortable if the friend starts sharing all the reasons she reached her conclusion and they turn out to be fairly good ones.
Maybe she brings up some personal stories or relevant Bible verses that you’d never considered before.
Maybe she explains that she errs on the side of caution because she’d rather be “too hard on herself” than to cross a line into sin (as humans do so easily), and that makes a lot of sense to you.
Particularly if it’s obvious the issue isn’t as simple as we once believed, then we might get upset because we don’t really WANT to end up as “extreme” as our high-standard friend.
There is often a sense of dread that occurs when we realize the Holy Spirit might be tugging us in her direction. (“No! Please, God! I was perfectly comfortable before!”) 🙂
So, whenever we’re feeling challenged by another person’s example, we have a couple of options:
- Thank the friend for the perspective and the chance to (maybe) make a change.
- Get defensive and try to convince the friend they’re actually wrong, so you don’t have to wrestle with that discomfort any more.
At the end of a debate, Christians who want to stay comfortably in the same place will always have that option.
We can always make the case that New Testament living is all about grace and freedom…
No one is “better” than another.
God loves us equally regardless.
We’re not under The Law anymore.
I mean, technically, Paul said point-blank, “EVERYTHING is permissible.”
But, if we’re willing to be honest, sometimes we use those platitudes as cop-outs. While they’re true in a context, we don’t have to turn them into convenient excuses.
That’s why I love what Charles Spurgeon wrote about decision-making:
It’s a bit frustrating when one Christian feels the need to argue they’re not doing anything “wrong,” instead of being open to the option of raising their standard on a quest to be even more right.
Personally, I don’t want to settle for what I’m allowed to do. I want the wisdom and persistence to pursue what’s BEST, without copping out.
“Is my choice simply permissible–or is it best?” That’s what we have to wrestle with, when we notice a fellow Christian going an extra mile beyond us…
Of course, we all like to believe we’re doing our best all the time already. (We tend to flatter ourselves like that.)
But, when we run into someone fighting against a temptation even harder or longer than we are, it forces us to pause and reconsider.
Do we appreciate that chance to evaluate ourselves–or do we resent the person who caused it?
Do we try to talk others out of their high standards, or do we take the challenge to raise our own?
Even when it’s uncomfortable, a wise person will give the Holy Spirit the chance to reveal that maybe–just maybe–we haven’t been doing our BEST after all.