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Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”
When my husband was five years old, he was invited to a birthday party. Upon his arrival, the five-year-old version of my husband spotted another child, holding a balloon. Walking up to the other child, my husband said, “I’m going to take your balloon.” The other boy — much taller, and one year older than my husband — replied, “I’ll beat you up if you take my balloon.”
Needless to say, my husband did not get the balloon. But, he did gain a friend. Hearing of the balloon dispute, my husband’s mother arranged a play date between the two boys and their friendship remains strong to this very day. Like wise King Solomon, my wise mother-in-law eyeing a dispute, made a decision that wasn’t about the boys. My mother-in-law made a decision for the boys.
You and I might quickly look at two boys arguing over who gets to keep a birthday balloon or two distraught women seeking justice when only one baby is left between them, and try to figure out which one is “right.” A longing to be right is often at the heart of so many of our divisions.
But Jesus didn’t say, “I have come that they may be right.”
It’s easy to get confused. I know this, because I’ve done it. I’ve gotten mixed up and thought the whole reason Jesus came to earth, died on the cross, and then rose from the dead was to make sure I am always right (I’m sure my family members will gladly confirm this confusion that sometimes overtakes me). What Jesus actually said was, “I have come that they may have life” (John 10:10).
God is calling us to fill the role of the wise parent at the birthday party, or the wise young king mediating a dispute between two distraught members of his community. As God’s ambassadors, we are called to raise the level of discourse and bring healing to those who are hurting and who find themselves pit in battles against each other.
When I do the math, the promise of abundant life carries more potential than a life in which I am always right. What a boorish lot that would make us all, if we were always right, right?
Instead, we are each invited to courageously own up to the ways we’ve insisted on being right at the expense of another. This is how we love well, and live abundantly.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What’s the difference between making a decision about someone, or for someone? How important is it to you to be right? How do you admit when you’re wrong?
Lord, please don’t let me make my “rightness” an idol that gets in the way of loving well and living fully. Teach me to surrender my ego, more and more. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Leadership as Service (1 Corinthians 4:1–4)
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