Recently I asked, publicly, when it is acceptable to look at another person and say:
“Hey, you’re wrong.”
Since I was the person asking the question, I felt it was safe to assume that I wasn’t the best person to answer the question. So, I listened to several other people give their answers. I think my favorite was actually from my brother, who effectively said that if your intention is kindness, you’re probably on the right track.
What he said struck a chord with me, because it reminded me of this bible verse
(Mark 12:30-31 KJV: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”)
that I’ve read a few times in my life. Since I do my best (which is poor by any standard) to let biblical truth be my absolute standard, his suggestion seemed to make the most sense. It struck me then that to love my neighbor as myself, I would need to do a few things: understand how I like to be loved, understand how they like to be loved, understand the love that we need -in spite- of what we like, and see an example of how to love like that.
Oh hey, Jesus was really good at all those things, and he has four gospels written specifically about his life and how he treated people. (Not to mention the rest of the bible) Since the first commandment is to love my God (Jesus) more than anything else, I guess it would stand to reason to see how He led by example.
Jesus makes it a point to teach. He teaches many times in the temple (Mark 1:21, 1:39, Mathew 4:23, Luke 13:10) where he is, of course, the most qualified teacher in existence. He teaches to huge crowds, (Luke 8:4, Mark 6:34, Mathew 5-7) and he teaches specifically to his disciples all the time. One thing that, as far as I can tell, is pretty consistent in the ministry and teaching of Jesus, is that he doesn’t demand that people listen to him. His disciples follow him and listen because they want to, the crowds follow him and believe him because they want to, even the pharisees listen to him and make it a point to ask him questions all the time, even though they hate him.
I’ll never be Jesus, but I feel like I can take this idea from his example: If someone has given you the chance to speak into their life, whether by following you, (which looks like, in our world, being your friend on facebook or twitter perhaps) by being your friend, by being your disciple, or by specifically seeking out your opinion… then you are allowed to say to them, “Hey, you’re wrong.”
The second thing I think is an important factor in this is the kindness and intention Jesus always has with people. He SERVES, and that’s a big part of why people want to listen. Yeah, he’s serving up absolute immortal truth, but he’s also serving healing, and dinner. Those are practical, intentional, meaningful, day-to-day gifts, that have nothing to do with telling you how to think. He’s just…good to us.
I want to earn the right to speak into people’s lives in that way. I think that makes sense. I think that’s the way that you can make sure you’re putting kindness first…because if you’re going to work so hard to earn the right to speak correction by first doing intentional service…well, you’re probably only going to carry through all of that if you love the person.
I think I’m programmed to correct first and serve dinner later…but hopefully I’ll be allowed some grace to work on that.