So right

Called it! Totally!”

            That is the phrase that often rings out when Joan and I play one of our favorite at-home games: Name that Next Line of Dialogue. High-fives follow.

            Because of our goofy work schedules we hardly ever watch TV shows in their actual broadcast time slots. Instead they pile up on our DVR until we’re forced to sit down for a marathon television show catching-up binge. Forced I tell you!

            Along with that kind of concentrated TV viewing comes an instinctive feel for the patterns of dialogue on scripted shows. When you hear the main character say X, you can almost predict that the companion will likely respond with Y. The fact that subtlety and sophistication are not regular hallmarks of TV writing these days is not really worth mentioning at this point.

            So we try to out-duel each other in successfully predicting what the next line of dialogue on the show will be. It’s fun! It’s fast! It’s competitive! You should try it sometime. Needless to say, reruns are not eligible for the game.

            One of the things that makes the game so much fun, of course, is being right. When the character speaks EXACTLY the words that you just predicted they would it gives you a little thrill of accomplishment. OK… I’ll admit I am easily amused. But still…

            Guessing lines of TV dialogue is not the only place I find I get a charge out of being right. I like being right when I drive. I like being right during meetings when some point is being debated. I like being right when… well, I guess in just about every situation I’m in! You might say “being right” is something I seem to aim for regularly.

            But lately I’ve had occasion to wonder if being right is quite as important as I sometimes make it out to be.

            And then this: earlier this week I read a blog from a man named Jim Palmer (no… not the former Orioles pitcher) titled, “15 Things Jesus Never Said.” #3 on that list was: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have correct theology.”


            Jim, are you telling me that the 4 ½ years I spent in seminary learning theology… learning to tell “good” theology from “bad” theology and correct from incorrect was 4 ½ years worth of wasted time? Are you telling me that Jesus didn’t really care about “being right”?

            I don’t think either one of those is really the message I am meant to take away from Mr. Palmer, but it does make me stop and think. It makes me want to evaluate the effect of a relentless pursuit of “being right” on those around me.

It makes me stop and ask, “Is the reward of being able to do a little private victory dance really worth the toll it potentially takes on that relationship?” “Do the topics of my pursuit of rectitude really matter as much as I imagine they do?” And finally, “What is the message being sent by any church who elevates a pursuit of ‘rightness’ over the practice of mercy and grace?”

Jesus DID care about the difference between truth and falsehood and he said so on many occasions (see John 4:23, John 8:32, John 14:6, John 18:37 among others). But he never let “being right” masquerade as his primary mission on earth. And it just makes sense to me that those of us who purport to follow him would not make that our main mission either.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: find one occasion (just one) when you can consciously bite your tongue when you find yourself tempted to correct another person’s trivial error.  In other words, practice “letting it go!”

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