Today’s question was raised by Stevie. Stevie began by noting The United Church of Christ’s motto is: “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” She added, “You do a wonderful job of somehow balancing your convictions with those of others. How do you do that?”
Let me begin by saying, “Thank you for the compliment. I really appreciate that!”
In terms of my “secret”, there are two core values that are foundational to my ministerial approach.
The first core value is humility. I believe there is a HUGE difference between one’s convictions, and the totality of Truth that God (at least for me) represents. Having said that, I believe that no one human being is able to capture the fullness of Truth. Not only does that awareness call me to a strong sense of humility regarding my own limitations; that awareness encourages me to actively seek out others to share their experience of Truth as well.
To use an analogy here, I believe the Truth we are seeking represents the picture of a puzzle. Each of us, then, represents a piece of that puzzle. It’s crucial that every one of us show up and share with others our own unique piece. We are also dependent upon others to share their piece. It is only when ALL the pieces come together that we begin to get the bigger picture.
I would note that I do not believe that God is only as big as the sum of the human pieces. To return to the puzzle analogy for a second, the picture represented in a puzzle is never as wondrous as the entity whose image it captures.
The second core value that guides my practice of ministry is love.
In my first 15 years of ministry, I’ve observed that one of the most common things that drive people is fear. Some, for instance, fear the wrath of God. This motivates them to live in rigid ways – in hopes they do things “right” and get rewarded (NOT punished!) by God. Others have a fear of faith traditions that wounded them earlier on their faith journey. These folks spend a good deal of their life lashing out whenever they encounter ANYTHING that reminds them of their earlier tradition.
I can’t even begin to put into words the damage that fear has done to individuals and to our world.
In leading faith communities, I refuse to let fear govern our individuals and collective psyches. Instead, I embrace another four-letter word: L-O-V-E. This comes very easy for me as a Christian Universalist, because I believe with every ounce of my being that God unconditionally loves everyone. As I once told an Evangelical friend of mine, “I would rather risk getting in trouble with God for loving too many people than too few!”
When an individual lashes out from a place of fear, I try my best to rise above the fear and help them realize there is plenty of love to go around. They don’t have to worry that a way of being that honors those who see things differently means they will be pushed out.
This simple, two-prong approach makes living in spiritual community relatively easy for it reminds me that the root of 99.9% of our problems is either arrogance or fear. If I am in a healthy, and spiritually grounded place – and respond with humility and love – things absolutely WILL work out. The only times I have gotten myself into trouble is when I have tried to counter arrogance and fear with more arrogance and more fear.
So what about you? What are your secrets to finding ways to live out your convictions in ways that balance the sacred worth of others and other perspectives?