The simple act of being a human being is riddled with questions. What should I do with my life? Is this morally right or wrong? Should I trust that person’s interpretation or someone else’s? Our lives are a constant process of questioning and wrestling with things; of trying to figure it out and hoping beyond all hope that we’ve got it right. We spend much of our time looking up to the sky and crying out, “Why can’t someone just tell me the answer?” And it feels like we get nothing in response.
A while ago I had a falling out with someone. It basically boiled down to me thinking I was right about something, and them thinking they were right about it and neither of us would back down. Neither of us would say we were wrong about what actually happened, and neither of us would apologise. I spent weeks wrestling with this situation, getting more and more het up about it. How could they not see that I was right? Why could I not prove it? Because if I was right, and I could prove it, then they would have to concede defeat. They would have to apologise and then we could move forward – but only once they realised that I was right.
The more I went over it in my head, the more imaginary conversations I had with that person where I tried to get them to confess, the more frustrated I got. I started to doubt myself, and then got annoyed for doubting myself, and kept going round and round trying to work out what actually happened; who was actually right? I lay in bed in the middle of the night looking up at the ceiling, asking, “God, can’t you just confirm to me I was right? Because I was right, right?” And then I heard a voice in my head ask, “Does it matter?”
The point wasn’t whether my friend or I was right; the point was that we both thought we were right, and in an effort to prove that to the other person had ended up hurting each other even more. Our pursuit of being right in our knowledge meant we were completely wrong in our actions. We were focused on this almost hypothetical scenario, on who had the moral high ground in their beliefs, that we lost sight of the fact we were supposed to love each other, to disagree well – and so neither of us had the moral high ground at all.
In the end we both agreed to disagree, apologised for the hurt we had caused one another and decided to move forward. I still don’t have the answer for who was right, but I discovered a much deeper truth instead. We can get so wrapped up in the theory, the theology of right and wrong, that we end up missing the point altogether. We question whether it is right that my friend is doing X, Y or Z. We struggle with the hot issue of the moment and try to land on what God wants us to think about it. We want to be able to say, “Now I have all the answers. Now I know how to act.” But very rarely in life do we get any answers to the big questions, and so I wonder; should having the answers change the way we act at all?
Does it matter that you come up with an opinion on the hot issue of the moment? Would having the “correct” opinion on your friend’s questionable behaviour make you treat them any differently? Should they have to stop doing what they’re doing and agree with you, before you show them love or who Jesus is? Human beings have a wide spectrum of beliefs, Christians have a wide spectrum of beliefs, but getting bogged down in “who’s right and who’s wrong?” means we’re missing the big picture of how to actually be human.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t think about the big questions in life, but I am saying we need a bit of perspective. We need to realise that our theoretical understanding of the world, or our philosophy, is not more important than working on how we behave in this world and our actions. We should think deeply about the world and the big questons, but deciding what’s right should never get in the way of doing what’s right.
Because certain answers may be unclear, but we all know how we should treat people. We all know it’s best to choose kindness, to love one another. Maybe instead of asking ourselves, “What do I think?” or “Do I condone their behaviour?” we should instead start asking, “How should I act?” or “How would God want me to treat this person?” It’s natural to want all the answers but we’re never going to get them, not completely, so maybe it’s time to start asking better questions.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti