Wednesday, January 06, 2010


At a conference I attended, the facilitator said: "It's more important to be kind than to be right." At first blush the statement resonated with me. I’ve certainly seen rightness expressed at the expense of kindness. But upon further reflection I think it was unfortunate that the conversation was being framed as "kind" versus "right." Can’t we be both? I think a better statement for the facilitator of this meeting to make would have been, "It is important to be right. It is just as important to be kind."

It’s ok to be extreme, but it’s not ok to be imbalanced. It was said of Abraham Lincoln that he was "a man of steel and velvet," extremely strong at the core with a very gentle exterior. It was said of Christ that he was “full of grace and truth,” completely truthful, but clearly gracious. That is what I want to be when I grow up. Both. And that is God’s dream for all of us in His church, that when we grow up we will “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:7-16). Greatness appears to be balanced extremes.

Balance is not very sexy, or cool. What is deemed newsworthy is often excessive in one direction or the other. The media tends to amplify the highly unlikely outliers, and tends to minimize the middler. This is true in Christianity, as well. The ministry that is extremely (and then fill-in-the-blank…large, evangelistic, Calvinistic, dogmatic, etc.) gets noticed. But for long-term effectiveness balance yields the best results, in your personal life and in your ministry.

A wise, older pastor advised me in my youth to “Lean against the prevailing wind.” He had used this phrase as a sextant for his personal life, leadership and teaching. He counseled, “If you find yourself preaching about grace all the time, maybe balance that with a message on holiness; if you’ve focused for a while on outreach, teach on discipleship.” So much of spirituality, he told me, is both/and, not either/or.

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