I recently wore a baseball cap to preach in at my church.
Why? To prove a point. I told a story to the congregation about an usher meeting that took place a long time ago at the church where I pastor. One of the ushers insisted on a person removing their hat before they could come into the auditorium. The hat wearing attender never came back.
This same usher made it a point at the meeting to say that he would do it again if someone tried to come in again wearing a hat. He was no longer an usher after that meeting. Which do you think is more important, the person removing the hat or celebrating that he's there? Some things are not worth fighting over. However, everyone has convictions they live by and believe in. The problem is sometimes other people have convictions and beliefs different than yours.
Below are three keys to upholding your beliefs without condemning others.
1. Establish What Is Important
Jesus made it clear, He wants us to be loving.
Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)
"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, He asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." I think Jesus is saying that it's important to be right, but it's also just as important to be love. Would you agree that how you treat others is just as important as what you tell others? Just because you may be right about God doesn't mean that you can't be wrong toward people. What if Jesus only chose to build relationships with those who were just like Him? He would have never talked to anyone. It's easy to get stuck there. Some would want to put requirements on others before communication can begin... first be, act and do before I can build relationship with you.
Jesus chose a different way of approaching relationships.
Mark 2:15-17 (NIV)
"While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
If you see yourself as anything more than a patient who has been healed your effectiveness will be limited. Like today, eating with someone was a sign of friendship. The tax collectors were considered outcasts. You know what this means? Jesus was right, but still right towards people. Too often, we want others to change before we engage. Jesus engaged and then change happened. It's important to be right about God, but you can't be right about and God and wrong toward people.
2. Understand Your Responsibility
Is it your job to get everyone to see things like you do? Or, are you responsible for representing Jesus to the best of your ability?
1 Corinthians 3:7-8 (NIV)
"So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor." Seeds are planted. But everyone knows, you can't plant a seed if you don't first dig deeper. How can we convey that we care about each other just as much as we care about our beliefs? Learn to ask questions and to listen. These are the shovels of sharing God's message. If you want to plant a seed you should be willing to dig a little deeper first.
How can you know what to say or do? When should you plant and water?
If being right is getting in the way of being love, it's time to back off. If fear of what others will think is keeping you from sharing the truth, it's time to press through. If you care more about being heard than understanding, it's time to listen. If you can tell the truth and do so in love, it's time to speak up. If the enemy is telling you not to, it's time to ignore. If the Holy Spirit is telling you to, it's time to obey. Use these guidelines to help you share your beliefs but still be loving toward people.
3. Look in the Mirror
When you read the Gospels, you see that Jesus most heavily assaulted hypocrisy. Jesus also made it clear that He didn't come to condemn but to save. What about us? Are we quick to condemn? To judge? To criticize? Our responsibility is to bear others burdens but too often we bury others under them.If you want someone to change their perception of God, it may start with their perception of you. It's OK, you can disagree with someone and still love them. Showing respect does not align you with their way of life or beliefs, it models love. Megan Roper shared in a Ted Talk that, "You don't have to abandon your beliefs, just your scorn." Whatever a person believes and however they conduct their life does not take away from the value that their life holds. Life is equally valuable. God demonstrated this example:
John 3:16-17 (NIV)
"For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him."
Value is determined by the amount someone is willing to pay. According to the Bible, God paid the same price for every person demonstrating how valuable each life is to Him.
My suggestion is to let the guy keep his hat on.
Evan Doyle is a campus pastor in Southeast Indiana. He also blogs at dailychristianhelp.com to help other leaders strengthen their ministry, avoid frustration and grow their church.