When I went from Connecticut to Tennessee to select and buy a house that would be our family’s home, I found a very nice, modest house close to the university. Through our families we had the money available for the down payment – it would have been affordable. I took the pastor, who was putting together the university student/church educational ministry, to see the house. He told me he felt it was too nice a house for what we would be doing. I did not, for one moment, agree with him, but I could tell that if we bought the house, it would have created a barrier between us. We needed a solid working relationship if we were going to be able to have an effective ministry. I called Sally Jo and we agreed: a house was not the key to our happiness – and probably not the key to effective ministry. Thus it was that I bought a house that would be functional – but was not very nice…and in a not very nice neighborhood. The house with no air-conditioning or central heat…and the family room made from a converted attached garage.
During the summer before we moved to Murfreesboro we studied for three weeks at L’Abri in Switzerland, the organization that Francis and Edith Schaefer founded. L’Abri had a continual flow of students and other young people from around the world who were seeking answers in the area of the Christian life. The L’Abri fellowship had several chalets where these people could stay for very minimal cost if they would work about half of each day keeping the ministry going – gardening, cooking, maintenance, etc. The students also knew they would be free to attend the lectures and discussions lead by the L’Abri staff…who ran each chalet. Sally Jo and I got permission to come and we shared the care of our daughters so we could both participate in the program. During the second week the town water line broke and there was no running water in the town for about a week. Water for life’s essentials, except for cooking and drinking, was taken from a nearby swimming pool. Out of practicality I decided to grow a beard.
Thus I arrived in Murfreesboro with a beard. Soon after we moved in, one of the church elders asked to speak to me. He was a wonderful, gracious man…and I could tell he was struggling with something. Very hesitantly he reminded me that I was hired without a beard and….I smiled and said that if my beard was a problem it would be gone immediately. The tension was gone! Then he went on to say that the beard was a real problem to some of the church people – and so he volunteered to talk with me about it.
At such times I remember Paul’s words: Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial. I Cor. 6:12
I could have made the case for the nicer home: “better for our family”, and for the beard: good for relationships with the University students. I also knew that our family would do just fine in the house we bought…and the University students did not really care if I had a beard or not.
Living requires us to continually decide: ”what is most important?” We drive a car…someone starts to cut us off. Is it worth risking a smashed fender to defend my position? Something is said that is not exactly correct. What is said does not hurt anyone – but it is not really what happened. What will be gained if I try to set the record straight? What is the potential relationship risk if I do? Does it really matter? Much of life is “small stuff” – not worth fighting for, not even worth discussing. Does it really matter?
Sometimes what I would like to do is permissible for me…but in the long run, it may not be beneficial. Why build barriers when we can build bridges. Too often our pride causes us to stick to a given position – not our wisdom.
When we live In Partnership With God we are to be peace makers. We are to be people who carry burdens for another, not create them. When we live In Partnership With God, we are called to forgive and to love. Let us never create unnecessary tension!!!
Let us seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.