Affirm and love each other this Lenten season
It’s the first Friday in Lent, a 40-day season (excluding Sundays) in the Christian calendar.
It’s a season to mark repentance, that wonderful and often abused term that means turn around, change your direction, change your mind. I know a few people, myself included, who could use a time of turning around, of reflecting on what they are doing, saying or acting that could be done differently and with more appreciation of someone else.
To mark that turning around and being different, Lent comes with people giving up something. Some give up chocolates, some give up wine, some give up something else. Some of these are things that are important and special but they are given up as a sacrifice. Sometimes people give up things they should give up anyway.
But after Good Friday, then what?
Do we just gorge on chocolate or wine or whatever else? Is this just a temporary exercise of holiness and self-restraint, only to be undone the first chance we get?
I might try something else this year.
In one of his articles in Christian Century magazine, editor and Lutheran pastor Peter Marty was writing about H.L. Mencken, the noted editor of the Baltimore Sun of years ago. Mencken could be a cynical, acerbic, sarcastic guy. But one time he was in a heated dispute with someone, and after some heated rejoinders Mencken just said, quite unexpectedly, “You might be right.”
That ended the dispute right there. How do you argue with someone when they admit that you might be right?
Some folks might get some satisfaction out of being told that they might be right by someone, and maybe that’s the point. We live in a time and dwell in a political environment where being right seems to be all there is. That, and making sure your opponents know how dumb they are. Coming out on top at the expense of someone else seems to be the most treasured state of our culture.
But, as Jesus said about other things in the Sermon on the Mount, it shall not be so among you. I think for the Season of Lent, rather than arguing with someone and getting nothing accomplished except harsh feelings, just tell them that they might be right. You still don’t have to agree with them. But neither do you have to have hard feelings toward them.
I know there are some times and some situations where we have to take a stand. Where we have to stick up for what is right. But in this toxic political and social environment I think it would be better to affirm each other as beloved human beings first before we try to convince someone of the error of their ways.
To do so leads us into following Jesus’ commandment, “To love one another.”
After all, they might be right.
REV. DR. TOM ROBINSON is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.