Is it always right to be right?

By Rev. Ian Shaw, RF board chairperson

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

One hopes it was God’s Spirit, but some might demur it was the second large helping of dessert; nonetheless, I awakened before I wanted to with a saying looping repeatedly through my mind. I know it is tempting for a few close friends to substitute ‘loopy’ at this point! The looping phrase is one often spoken, but I suspect the words seldom reflect one’s actual opinion. You may have used it yourself. It begins, ‘I could be wrong, but . . . .”

Ever heard it? Ever used it? I know I have. I may even have thought I was speaking with integrity, but I suspect at the moment of using those words, the possibility of being wrong was actually deemed by yours truly to be infinitesimally small – as in approaching zero from the negative direction.

Yet! And yet, and this is why I think it may have been the Holy Spirit invading my subconscious, the words “I could be wrong,” if actually meant, partially reflect my understanding of Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2, verses 1ff. We often bandy about the word respect with reference to our inclination toward others. Philippians 2 advocates the broader attitudinal mindset, humility.

There are various concepts of humility. I really like the one I heard from a Winnipegger named John Regehr — “raising or esteeming the other just a little higher than oneself.” In this image one retains personal worth, but chooses to value the other even more. This kind of humility affirms I do not have the corner on truth (or love, or passion, or gentleness) and directs me to take other people and their positions seriously. So if I am wrong — wrong-headed, wrong-hearted or wrong-acting — I could be corrected!

In these difficult days in our unabashedly secular society and troubled denomination, this Pauline call to humility is essential as we seek to discern and obey God’s will. It is hard, since some of my friends, who see God’s will differently than I do, are also convinced they are right. Can we find common ways forward in vital service? Perhaps not, though such life-enriching unity remains my personal goal and my hope for the Fellowship’s future ministry. Our commitment to prayer is therefore so very critical.

As I was pondering this piece my mind went to a short animation from the distant recesses of a previous century. It is entitled “Is it always right to be right? by Lee Mishkin 1970”.

While the film isn’t all one could want, its repeated mantra — “Every group was right, and they knew it and they were proud of it” – challenged me and reminded me that humility seamlessly blends truth and grace in the manner of Jesus. May we find how to do that with each other and with our neighbours.