We all have opinions. We have opinions about a lot of things, do we not? And we all think we see the world pretty accurately. We even think we’re fairly good judges of character, and we’re quite sure we know why people do what they do.
What’s funny about that is how much we can all disagree on any one of those issues. Meaning, if we’re all convinced we’re right, and there’s a ton of disagreement, there’s a ton of wrong people on any given matter (or there’s a ton of varying valid opinions). We can’t all have the best opinion if we all disagree.
All that to say, when it comes to our opinions, we should always couple them with a strong dose of humility. There’s a good chance our opinion is not all that and a bag of chips. Our interpretations, our critiques, or our judgements of people’s character, are simply our opinions (meaning, it’s fairly possible we are no more right than the next guy) (or girl).
But perhaps more importantly, our lack of omniscience should remind us to be major grace extenders when we disagree with the people around us. Because we recognize that we don’t know why people hold the opinions they do, we don’t know why people do what they do, and frankly, we don’t know that our opinion is officially the best opinion there ever was (if we are willing to be humble and honest).
And that (in my opinion) is something our culture might be lacking in these days — graciousness with those we disagree with.
Let’s be Top-Notch Grace-Extenders!
There is a whole lot to disagree about right now. Without me even mentioning a single issue, I’m sure a handful come to mind.
But how good it would be, if we were Christians who extended grace to those who seem to have different opinions than us! Instead of assuming we know better, assuming people are wrong, assuming we know people’s motives, maybe we should simply assume the best of people. While we may not understand why people do what they do (or think how they think), chances are, most people are truly trying to navigate each issue the best they know how (and they may actually have decent reasons for doing it their way).
There’s a Proverb my girls and I recently memorized that seems so very relevant for this issue. We memorized it because of its applicability to family life; but it’s applicability extends far beyond that to church life, social life, social media life, just daily Christian life.
The Proverb says,
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. -Proverbs 18:2
Aren’t we all fools sometimes?! We can get so fixated on how we see things, and we take no interest in understanding any other way of thinking. This foolishness will undoubtedly prevent us from assuming the best of people and extending the grace and kindness that should characterize us as Christians.
Grace in Action
So what does it look like to be less foolish and more gracious? Partly it’s allowing appropriate humility to stop us in our tracks when we put our thoughts above other people’s. It’s halting our assumptions related to people’s motives.
And the COVID-19 mask debate displays this perfectly.
For example, if you have strong opinions against masks it would be easy to walk by people in masks and have so many grace-less thoughts. You may assume those people are ignorant and foolish. You may assume they’re driven by fear. You may come to the conclusion that they need to do their research and take the ridiculous thing off.
But could it be that you are being a fool by focusing so much on your own opinion (according to Proverbs 18:2)? Should you not instead recognize that each masked face tells a different story that you know nothing of?
One masked person may have symptoms that concern them, so out of loving caution they put the mask on. Maybe one thinks masks are as silly as you do, but they just want to respect the governing authorities. Or maybe their research led them to believe masks make a difference. Maybe they are immune compromised — and they need to be as guarded as they can. Whatever the reason, we might as well assume the best, rather than the worst (AKA: be gracious and kind).
And the same goes the other way. A pro-mask person may assume all anti-maskers are selfish, or too stubborn to listen to their government. Or they may assume they’re the conspiracy theorist who don’t take the virus seriously. While in reality, a maskless person has their own story. Perhaps they don’t wear one because they can’t breath in it! Or maybe their research has led them to believe wearing a mask weakens your immune system. Maybe they simply forgot it at home. You get the idea.
Will You Be Gracious or Foolish?
We can have our opinions, but they shouldn’t lead us to pridefully assume the worst of anyone who disagrees with us. In fact, those we disagree with are the perfect people to extend grace to. There’s not much grace needed when people agree with you.
Essentially how we handle difference of opinion is where the rubber meets the road: when someone’s differences rubs up against you like sand paper, will you prove to be a kind person? Will you graciously assume people have good reasons for doing what they do? Or will you be a fool who “takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion”?