I am not normally a fan of those signs that some churches put outside with witty quotes for passers by. However, recently on a trip out in Bristol we went past a church sign that really got under my skin for days afterwards. I cannot remember what church it was but the slogan was something like this;
'It is better to be kind, than to be right'
It probably struck me more because my nine year old son was in the back of the car. Being a nine year old, there is no greater priority in his life than getting things right, and he is also very keen to point out to others when they don't have it right (in his opinion) .. In a way that sometimes causes his parents to wince! He corrects people with such absolute certainty, even if he is in fact, incorrect.
However, his favourite person to correct is not even his parents, its his seven year old sister. If she dares to say something that her brother deems to be untrue, he corrects her with the kind of harshness and brutality that only an older brother can. Of course, she doesn't hang back from expressing her feelings on the matter either !
We live in culture that likes to be right. I see many posts on social media which are loaded with comments from people gleefully putting others right on all manner of things. Trust me, I have been on the end of it! Being right is not a problem of course, But I think it is only a problem if thats your main priority in life. That is, if you feel its your mission to put everyone right no matter what the cost.
Christianity calls its followers to put aside ones self , and place a different priority above all else. And that priority can be summed up in one word = love. Everything should be viewed through the lens of love for each other. Not pretend love, in which we are just being nice. Christians are asked to try and love other people as God loves them - which is a massively tall order.
When the early church got off the ground, the first thing that those first followers had to do is to live along side other people who did not have love as a priority. Rather than challenge their customs and ways, they decided that the most loving thing to do is to go along with those customs, even if they did not fit with the new way of life they were trying to take on. As they did so, they were able to tell them of this different way of life.
Two thousand odd years later, I think that approach is still a good one and I would venture that when churches themselves to run into problems it is often because people have not put love first. But its not just a church problem, its a lifestyle challenge for every single one of us.
If you decide to put love before everything else it can have a profound affect upon your life. You may compromise, and start to treat people very differently. Of course, it may be that a person needs to hear the truth and be put right, but done out of genuine love this can sound very different. When love is your priority you challenge others to do the same .. And who knows how many people you will affect that you come into contact with every single day.