It seems like we have become more black and white as a culture. No, I am not speaking of racism but our perspective on life. I feel like we have fallen into the trap of over simplifying life by trying to make an either/or option. I would describe this as binary thinking. It is detrimental to our faith.
Life is very rarely ( and I mean very rarely) an either/or option. Yet we interpret life as one way is best and the other is worst. We do it with politics (Red or Blue). We do it with our preferences (Coke or Pepsi). We do it with our entertainment (Marvel or DC). And we do it with our lives (terrible or great). Yet the truth is our lives, especially, are much more complex.
Many years ago while preparing for the ministry; I was reminded of this truth by a wise old professor. I have to confess I do not remember which course he was teaching, nor the specifics of the lecture. I do remember the advice he offered. “Gentlemen,” he said, “If you don’t get both sides of the story, you will be on the horns of a dilemma!” I have never taken the time to Google the phrase, but I have put it into practice. Simply stated, be sure that you get both sides of the account. And when you do this you begin to grasp that almost all situations are not one way or the other, they are a complex combination of issues. This sage advice has saved me many times from giving unbalanced counsel.
The same it true in our lives. I am reminded of the wisdom of Proverbs that was probably the source of my professor’s wisdom. “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17) We are reminded of the necessity of attempting to get both sides of the story. Just as in personal conflict there is something to gain from getting both sides of the story. There is a great benefit to pursue the potential positive side of the bad situations in our lives. This is especially true for those of us who serve our Lord in different capacities. Paul reminds us of the complexity in service Jesus when he writes, ““for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9) He reveals that ministry is going great in Ephesus (from where he wrote the letter to the Corinthians) but there was also the bad.
I am reminded that the good of ministry is also accompanied with the difficult. The opposite is also true. The challenge is that we do not always see how God is working. Our tendency is to only focus on the negative and to overlook the positive. I can honestly say that this has been true of every situation that I have ever faced in serving Jesus. The secret for me has been to be faithful and keep at it. These are times that I hold onto Biblical promises like Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
-Pastor Joe Parkinson