Permission to Embrace Conviction
I finally got the permission I was yearning for without me knowing I was yearning for it. All I know is that one day I was staring out a window and suddenly it was there—not just gestating academically in my head like it had doing been for the last decade. No, suddenly it was brought to life in me—and made into something that empowers and frees me, instead of something that I merely weigh or that weighs on me.
Over the last thirty years or so, our somewhat isolated, Western microclimate has weathered shifting seasons of thinking. Included in this category is the once-popular “No Tolerance” line of thought, which has given way to the more recent “Anti-No Tolerance” norm. In hopes of nullifying the off-putting effects of opposition, we now oppose opposition. “A-conviction” is the new “conviction”. (Which is still a conviction).
This makes perfect sense according to the saying “We become the mirror image of that which we oppose” (Richard Rohr). The reality of opposition perpetuates itself.
Especially we Christians don’t do so well with opposition. Whatever our convictions are, the threat of differences has caused and still causes gut-wrenching, cringe-worthy destructive reactions. We were given our tools, but we weren’t mature enough to use them without inflicting unnecessary pain. But God is so patient.
Perhaps a Time Out is an order. Maybe it’s a good thing that for now, we’ve (or at least I have) stalled out in this purgatory of not wanting to take sides. Maybe it’s a healthy exercise to drop the rope on convictions for a second and let the dust settle until I can see Christ in all this before I grab my torch and pitchfork.
For a long time, I have agonized and contemplated, not so much where I stand on things, but whether or not it is helpful at all to take a stand on things. My transformation is still very much in-process: I started as a black and white thinker. Then certain life events helped transition me into someone who suddenly could neither claim any stand nor support any boundary. “What is right? All is grey!”
This nebulous place is appropriately paralyzing. Better to wait to act until I’ve matured. It was/is an appropriate part of my process, but paralysis is not my ultimate destination. But there I sat: hesitant, unknowing, and uncomfortable amidst the other evolving frozen chosen—all the while, wishing for a righteous, hard line to cling too. “Boundlessness” can be a hard concept to live with. I was part put-off, and part envious of anyone who could voice a conviction at all.
Then I began to take a deeper look into why I was so paralyzed. Why can’t I embrace a certain conviction? For me, this was the reason: I didn’t want to imply hatred toward someone by saying that I disagreed with them. I didn’t want to be the self-righteous jerk that Jesus rebuked over again in the Bible, and I didn’t want to be the jerk that the “anti-haters” have understandably risen up against. I didn’t want to make people feel the way I feel when someone says to me: “Women should not be given a position of authority in church.”
Many of us haven’t really learned how do detach hatred from disagreement. In turn, disagreeing has become synonymous with hating, and so (perhaps rightly?) society has removed the privilege of being able disagree.
But one day, as I was staring out the window, I saw some of what God disagreed with about me, and at that same moment I also saw that He loved me. God agreeing with me was never a condition for His love for me. In the same way, I don’t agree with everything my girls do, but it has no bearing on whether I love them or not. Suddenly, I understood without a doubt that in Christ, it is possible to disagree and love.
The funny thing is, I knew this—I knew this! Dallas Willard said it a long time ago. But this knowledge possessed no power and no meaning for this area of my life, until that day.
Anyway, in that sudden ah-ha moment, I was given permission to re-embrace my convictions as I am in Christ. I was graciously given a place to unapologetically and lovingly stand. Even more, I was given the grace to permit others to have their place, too.
It’s a step beyond “agreeing to disagree”—like un-invested co-habitants who just ignore the elephant in the room; like couples who must refrain from a topic, lest a nuclear war ensue. “First, do no harm”—it’s a right mantra, but it doesn’t end there. There’s a next step. Here’s the vision for it: After waiting patiently for God to give us a place to stand, and allowing Him to transform us into loving, Christ-centered people who can stand there, we unique people progress into unique people who deeply love and respect one another—people who are somehow unoffending and unoffended—despite standing alongside people of known and fundamental differences. We suddenly possess a love that is uniting instead of fracturing. And we don’t love each other because we agree on major issues; we love each other because that’s what people in Christ do. Period.
I am coming out of neutral. I am being put into gear, with permission to proceed with conviction. Not that I plan on shouting my particular stance from the mountaintop, nor shall my stance be the basis for my ministry. It’s just that I get to have it again.
See for yourself, as you enthrone Christ over your convictions—from that position of being in and under Christ—we are the same as everyone else. We are all people who are deeply loved despite our differences.
I don’t mean to insult the enormity of our differences by writing out some smug, cut-and-dried perspective of it all. I certainly don’t claim to have it all figured out. But I think I’ve gotten a taste of the next step in my salvation that God is working out within me.
Pray for our deliverance into whatever next, more loving, less threatening place God has for us. He is the only one that can do it. Come Lord Jesus, hurry. And let’s get ready—being in Christ can do mysterious and unexpected things to a person.