Sometimes it’s wrong to be right

In my opinion you can absolutely be right and yet completely in the wrong. Being right is not all it’s cracked up to be and is not the most important thing in many situations. In fact, I’d suggest that often times when we’re in pursuit of being right we often end up on the wrong side of that to which we originally were in search of. In other words I think that often times it’s wrong to be right.

There are moments when our compulsion to be right leads us down a dirty path. A path where we can be









If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that I help you find the path to rightness.

If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that you understand why you’re wrong so that you can be rescued from your wrongness.

If I am right and you are wrong then me helping you understand the error of your ways is the right thing to do.

If I am right and you are wrong then the most loving thing I can do is fight for what is right.

If I am right and you are wrong then I have the freedom, nay, the responsibility to speak into your life even if that word is unsolicited.

If I am right and you are wrong then my job is to speak not to listen.

If I am right and you are wrong then…

Oh, there are so many “if’s” that we could list! When we believe that we are right we so often believe that this gives us additional freedoms. But it does not. Being right (which is quite subjective in the first place) does not in any way give us a platform to speak into another’s life. It just doesn’t. We think that it does, we feel like it should, we genuinely (with good intentions I think) want to help. But being right does not equal doing right.

You can be right and still be a jerk.

You can be right and still be unkind.

You can be right and still be undignified.

You can be right and still be completely lacking in grace.

You can be right and still be completely miserable.

You can be right…

I don’t believe it’s wrong to be in pursuit of being right. But I do think that sometimes (honestly…often times) I could care less if you’re right. For one, you’re never right as often as you think (you do know that right?). Secondly, I personally value people more than I value being right and I often find that those two values clash. Thirdly…I didn’t actually have a third point here…but if I were to have a third point I think I might say that when our goal is the pursuit of rightness (a goal that I do not think is inherently wrong) I think we run the risk of missing out living rightly along the way. We work so hard to BE right that we forget to do right by others. The worst part is that, speaking personally here, many of the things that I knew were absolutely right ten years ago I find to be absolutely laughable today! What I used to bank on as right I now understand completely differently!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we never suffer from doing good and we can never over-love. So…what if we spent our energies

Listening to people instead of telling them how we’re right

Extending dignity to people rather than telling them how their wrong

Being humble in our understanding of ourselves rather than taking an arrogant approach of assuming our own rightness

Being compassionate in our interaction with others instead of fighting for our own ends

Pursuing understanding over and above proving how our own ideas are correct

One might argue that being right and being kind are not in opposition to each other–which is absolutely true…sometimes…oftentimes…occasionally…in theory…In my experience, however, what  I often observe and am tempted to live into is that when faced with the opportunity to prove myself right over and above another person (or their opinion) I will sacrifice kindness or generosity to prove myself the winner. I’ll prioritize truthiness over and above grace or gentleness. Being right usually wins out and it often costs something–and that cost? More and more I’m discovering that it’s people’s feelings, it’s potential relationships, it’s the dignity of others. Beating you down with knowledge–even good knowledge–is still a beat down. And that’s not right.



Listening People Into Free Speech

Listening might just be the best thing we can do to care for another. There are so few people in this world who are willing to listen. We all want to be heard but few of us want to hear. A phrase that emerged out of my schooling experience was “listening people into free speech”. Beautiful. That’s an experiment that many of us should step up to, listening people into free speech.

It’s important, I think, not simply to hear people but to truly listen to them. Listening first and foremost requires asking questions, shutting up, remembering what was said, and responding when appropriate. It’s often when we actively listen that we learn how and where to serve our neighbor.

I know I don’t do this perfectly. As a matter of fact I recently frustrated a neighbor due to my poor listening. But how great and how beautifully simple would it be to develop a community of people whose primary concern was listening those around them into free speech? This is what I hope becomes a defining characteristic of the Grassroots Conspiracy movement here in downtown Vancouver. Listening. It’s simple. It’s subtle. And it’s strangely transformational.

When Do We Stop Listening

On a recent blog post a person commented “how long should we listen?” This question was in regard to me suggesting that regardless of your theological position on homosexuality–whether it’s right or wrong or whether the answer is to embrace it or live celibate or whatever*, we should take a posture of listening and open dialog.

I think there is a major assumption that underlies many people’s questions regarding the idea of listening and dialoging with those who see things differently from us. That assumption is that the only reason we listen and dialog to others is in order to achieve our desired outcomes. The assumption is that if somehow I know ahead of time that you will never ‘come around’ to my point of view there is then no reason to dialog with you. What’s the point if you won’t ever agree with me? While it is obviously impossible to know if someone will ever agree with us I think it is important that we challenge this assumption head on and question it for what it is…

We all do it at times. We do. Don’t deny it. But to only engage in dialog and to only listen to others when we think it’ll achieve our goals is unkind and denies the dignity of the other person. It assumes that they’re ignorant. It assumes they’re wrong. It assumes that we have nothing to learn. It assumes a lot. It is also slightly deceitful. Am I really listening to you if I’m only doing it in order to make you think as I do? I may pretend like I value your opinion, but if my purpose is to invalidate that opinion then how honest am I being?

What if we listened to each other because we valued the other’s voice? Because we valued that their opinions and thoughts represent who they are, what they value, and how they’re creating meaning in the world. What if we lived out of a place that recognized that while we cannot walk in their shoes and experience the moments that have shaped them, we can honor those experiences by valuing their voice–not because we want to change them but because we value who they are and who they are becoming. We’re all becoming something, we’re all being changed and transformed, and none of us are truly certain of who we are becoming (though we all hope to be changing in some kind of intentional direction don’t we!). So to listen to others, to make space in our lives for a posture of openness to dialog to those who think differently and see the world differently does not require that try to change them but rather that we believe we’re both being changed–that life is not static, and that life is not done in a vacuum but in relationship with others!

So how long should we listen? We should listen until they’re done talking or until dinner time ’cause then it’s time to eat and everyone knows it’s rude to talk with your mouth full.


* Not to suggest these are the only two options…or even to suggest that ‘options’ is a word to be used in this context!

Can God Hate Visionary Dreaming?

He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. the man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, he sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the  circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In just a few weeks my family will be living in a new context. We will be living in the same home as another couple and a single person. Together the seven of us learn how to do life together , we will learn how to respect the others eating preferences, sleeping preferences, and parenting preferences. At the same time we will be learning how to give up our preferences in deference to each other. Not only, however, will we be exploring how to live for each other but part of our experiment is how to live for each other while dying to ourselves for the sake of our neighbor(hood). All at the same time I am nervous and excited. We are on the verge of something–a transformational experience for certain whether it be through disaster or through success.

Success? What in the world is success anyway?

The quote from Bonhoeffer above questions our preconceived notions of success. He even goes on to say that if our pursuit in community is of my definition of success then I have already missed the mark. When we’re in pursuit of my ideals then inevitably I take a position of power over and above everyone else in order to make my dream become a reality OR I take the position of accuser if/when my dream does not become a reality–an accuser of you, of me, and of God for failing to do His part.

For those of us who are a part of a church community we should take Bonhoeffer’s words soberly. How many of us are invested in church for what it could become rather than for the “simple” idea of love? Love for our brothers, love of self, and love of God. There must always be a sense of anticipation for what might happen, for what could happen, for what might become–but if this sense of anticipation ever supersedes love, then we have missed not only the means of becoming but also the exact reason we might ever become anything.

In church planting we’re trained to craft and care for our vision. If this is indeed the case, we had better add a lot of padding around that statement. Because if my vision for a church (that consists

of me, other human beings, and the Spirit of God) simply emerges from my brain, my heart, and my passions I will inevitably become either accuser or controller. In community–both as a church and as neighbors–we must learn to listen to each other, to care for the others voice, and to hear God in one another. In community we must also make space for listening to God, to value his voice, and to joyfully submit to his desires for our future. Together we can make beautiful music.

Thoughts From an "Outsider"

This will be a repeat for some of you. But for those of you who do not receive my newsletter, you’ve got to read this story from a good friend of mine. It was written for February’s newsletter and has already had a surprisingly deep impact. I will post the article below as it appeared in my newsletter. Please read and pass it on to a friend.

This is one of my favorite articles I have included in a newsletter yet. Some of you have read Mo’s story from the July 2009 newsletter, well she has written again this month and it includes some very challenging words. I want to encourage you to not be put off by a difference in opinion, theology, or perspective, but to instead hear one person’s journey in raw
and authentic form. The point here is not correct doctrine,
but learning to listen.


I recently came upon a question posed on an online forum that provoked me. The question, essentially was: If outsiders have
visited church services and found it wanting and don’t want
to go back…what then? A number of people were uncomfortable with the use of the word “outsiders”. Including the person who originally posted the question for discussion. I‘m not. I think it is entirely appropriate. Especially in this context. I am myself an outsider. I was an insider before too.

I was not brought up in a church attending family. In high school I was drawn to a church youth group and fell in love with the church and its congregation. I went all the time. Really. For some reason they gave me a key to the church and I would go at midnight after school football games. I attended every service. I was there for most official church events as well as random off hours. When I felt weird and like I didn’t fit in at school because I was the only Asian kid in a sea of Caucasian faces, I felt safe, accepted and loved at church. I knew the lingo and the secret handshake! I eventually even went to seminary. I had definitely made the conversion from outsider to insider.

Then…I figured out that I am gay. And my church body decided I was an outsider. It was incredibly painful to be disaffected by my spiritual family. It was also frustrating to try to dialogue about my experience and be told I had nothing of value to add to the discussion until I “got right” with god and got rid of “the gay“. In other words, I was still allowed in the building as long as I kept my mouth shut. I was met with rigid legalism and much…MUCH finger shaking. I was NOT met with love. Or compassion. Or a desire to help me talk through this real challenge in my life. Nor was I met with an honest humility that we are all sinners and all sin is repugnant to God’s eyes. I don’t think being gay is a sin, but was never allowed to articulate my convictions. My experience is mirrored nationally. The church community I loved has declared war on my gay brothers and sisters. And me. So I left.

Now here I am, an outsider again. I went to other churches for awhile. It’s funny. If you attend services there is always a break for folks to greet each other and welcome newcomers. There is a new attendee (outsider) form you are encouraged to fill out so the church can follow up with you. I can attest from personal experience, of the 37 different churches I went to and filled out their form. (I did mention I was gay and not conflicted about it.) Exactly zero ever followed up with me. Periodically I get a longing to attend services and be part of a spiritual family that is working to build stronger communities through practical demonstration of God’s love. Mostly I squelch it. So we are back to the original question. If outsiders have visited church services and found it wanting and don’t want to go back…what then? This is me. I don’t want to keep bruising myself against the un-Christ-like inflexibility of an organized church. I don’t want to be the object lesson of how sanctified (read sanctimonious) YOU are because your sins aren’t political hot buttons. Hello….glass house…stones.

I don’t know if I can ever believe in God again. I do know that if I am ever likely to, it won’t be from attending a church service. Tried that. Found it wanting. Don’t want to go back. End of story, right? Until I met an unusual Christian who doesn’t judge me or preach to me. Simply shares the stories of his life with me and is interested in the stories of my life. I don’t feel he has an agenda with me. Like some spiritual salesperson earning his eternal commission. (You know you’ve met them) I am extremely sensitive to “fake” concern over my spiritual wellbeing and threats of damnation if I don’t correct my behavior. Yet this Christian man never triggers my alarms. When I am around him or his wife I periodically think I may catch glimpses of Christ out of the corners of my eyes. I feel welcomed back into the discussion. I may or may not find my way back to the church again. But for the first time in many years I am engaged in an internal AND external dialogue about it that feels productive. Christians are called to go into the world (great commission stuff). I personally have only met two who are doing that. It renews my hope if not yet my faith to know that there are Christians willing to. It is scary to leave your comfortable church and your comfortable assumptions and meet “outsiders” where they are. It’s scary. It’s also what you are called to do.