Respect the Image | Initiate Peace, Celebrate Others & Assume You Are Wrong
The next three chapters of Respect the Image address the "I.C.A." of the COMMUNICATE acronym.
The best news in all the world is that God is committed to making peace. He has initiated the cosmic peacemaking process of taking fallen men, fallen women, and a fallen world and restoring them to a place of peace having been in turmoil under the curse brought by sin. It's no accident that God would herald Jesus as the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), that his arrival on earth would be announced with the words "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace..." (Lk. 2:14), and that he would make peace between God and man by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). God is a God of peace whom we have the privilege to imitate in making peace.
One of the clearest ways we represent Christ and are proven to be "sons of God" (Mt. 5:9) is when we humbly but courageously seek to establish peace where there was once turmoil. Christ is on display when we refuse to let anger linger another day (Eph. 4:26-27). When we desire peace as the offender or the offended (Mt. 18:15, Mt. 5:23-24). When we so desire healing that we commit to long conversations in which we chill out and open up and strive to understand what we hear and mean what we say.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-3, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The Bible prioritizes this relationship because Jesus died to ensure that this peace could be maintained and ultimately be enjoyed to his glory.
Many of us grew up in a school or sibling atmosphere where "the art of the putdown" was a craft in which the strong survived by belittling others. Oftentimes, this belittling and shaming was a more respectable way of obliterating people's dignity in order to feed the pride of those who were especially good at it. Hurling petty insults comes from a sinful predisposition to see the worst or unlikable in others. The issue is that we don't simply just "grow out of" doing this. If we're attentive to our hearts, we are very quick to identify what is crooked or lacking or excessive or odd or distasteful in others. As Jesus sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, was he spending each moment identifying all the flaws and speaking down on them? Doubtful. Why would they flock to him if he wasn't speaking graciously with a personal interest in them?
The goal of this chapter isn't to simply take on an air of false positivity. As Shorey makes clear, "Flattery is a lie. Affirmation is the truth. (See Prov. 28:23)." The purpose for celebrating the good in others is founded upon God's own evaluation of us and what he himself chooses to highlight. He knows the worth of every human and especially when it comes to those who have trusted in his Son, he chooses to underline, circle, bold, and dog-ear the good that he sees. If he found something commendable in Samson, surely we can be on the hunt for what is wonderful and commendable in others.
"If we fail to receive and believe this vision, we will suffer the ill effects of our narrow perspectives and will lose our chance to flourish in our friendships, our homes, our churches, and the world. But when we make much of God by celebrating those who bear his image, we ourselves will be blessed and beautified. The end result is that all of us will experience larger hearts and increased grace." (pg. 159)
Assume You Are Wrong
We hate being wrong. We go to great lengths to convince ourselves and others that we're right even when we are wrong. So why on earth would we go the extra mile to assume that we are wrong? Well, when we do so we humbly acknowledge our inability to know everything, we defuse arguments, and we open the pathways of peaceful communication. When we are refusing to be right in our own eyes (Prov. 26:12), we are displaying a heard of wisdom because "fools have no self-doubt." In other words, the person who finds themselves expressing constant confidence in their knowledge base, their experiences, their rightness, and their inability-to-be-wrong-ness is sorely mistaken. That posture is ultimately not a reflection of a personality type but a heart-type. That's not to say that you can't be confident or bold in matters of conviction or even simply air your opinion, what is does mean is that humility as finite and sinful people requires us understanding the possibility that we might not be right in a given conversation.
One of the most compelling applications of assuming that we're wrong is that we are free to not have the last word in every conversation. Our public communication usually hinges on who can finish the conversation with a mic-drop moment. Who will "win" the argument? Who will settle it with a stinging, last-ditch effort to be right? Jesus' trials before Herod and Pilate are tremendous examples of refusing to try to prove or defend himself. He was truly innocent wasn't he? He hadn't done anything wrong? Why didn't he say anything and lay out his case? Scripture tells us very clearly in 1 Peter 2:23 about both the why and the how of Jesus' silence, "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." God will have the final say, which means we don't have to spend so much effort trying to prove ourselves right giving way to the humble joy of learning from and loving others by assuming that we're wrong.
- How can Romans 12:9-21 help in making peace with current conflicts in my life?
- How can I practice celebrating others? What good, wonderful things brought on by God do I see in those closest to me that I should mention to them?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to humble us with a fresh realization that we have an amazing capacity to disrupt peace, put down others, and defend our own righteousness. Ask him to show us the beauty of Christ's righteousness and the Father's readiness to receive us at all times.
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