One year a congregation held a retreat for its Church Board. They brought in a leader from outside the congregation to deal with leadership issues. And in the course of one of the sessions, one of the board members said, “I have always thought there is a right way and that’s the way I do it.” Not knowing the man very well, the leader then asked the man, “And how are you to live with?” As tears came to the man’s eyes, he said, “Terrible, and I’m about to lose my second marriage because of it.”
A colleague of mine was once asked, “Would you rather be right or be loved?” and he suddenly lost some of his taste for being right. Over the years I have come to believe that most of life is not about right and wrong but about taste, preference, custom, and habit.
Struggling with the tension about needing to be right and desiring to be loved puts an important perspective on things. At Green Tree, we are a group of people with different tastes, different preferences, different customs, and different habits. Although we are not greatly diversified regarding ethnic and cultural backgrounds, our differences do emerge as we worship together, work together, dream together, and try to discern God’s calling together.
Most of us like to be right. Perhaps we feel being right will lead to acceptance if we are good at what we do. But as the story about the man at the church board retreat attests, the need to be right can alienate, divide, and push others away. So there is wisdom in respecting and accepting the differences in taste, preference, custom, and habit of others. There is wisdom in acknowledging and accepting our diversity as we work together to serve and worship God.
So as we work together as a church in the coming year and the years to follow, let us respect the various differences that make up our church body. As we attempt to fulfill God’s calling as a church, let us strike a balance between the need to be right and the desire to be loved. I am entering my seventh year as your pastor, and in our time together I have been amazed as to how our love for one another strengthens us as a congregation and holds us together despite any differences we may have. May such love and respect continue to propel us forward as we continue the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together.