The first time I heard it was a little over a year ago. After a wave of suicides and school shootings, a youth pastor penned a blog post pleading for a way to stop the spread of violence, loss, and grief. He made suggestions for how the church could better minister to at risk kids - not just those from the LBGT community but also those with mental health issues, abused and neglected kids, and those bullied by their peers. I don't remember much of the details from what he wrote, but there was one line that stood out.
He said (paraphrased) "Given the choice between extending grace and being theologically correct, I will always choose grace."
That line stayed with me. I can either show grace or be right. Preferably, both. I am the kind of guy who enjoys being right. But often, winning the fight comes with a price. That is a difficult lesson to learn, and to be frank - one I'm still learning.
Still learning. And still hearing variations of that same phrase.
Christian and I are reading together through 'Wonder' by R.J. Palacio. The book follows August, a 5th grader with multiple facial deformities, through his first year of middles school after years of of being home-schooled. One of his teachers introduces a new precept every month and the first one sounded familiar when I read it.
"When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."
I actually stopped reading at this point and asked Christian what he thought that precept could mean. We talked about it for a while before reading again. Knowing how hard it is for me to learn this concept, it is one I hope to see him master at a younger age.
Then I heard another variant at church this last weekend. Pastor Mike was preaching on accepting others in the same way that Jesus accepted us - including those who have different beliefs or values.
Mike said, "Choose to value the relationship over the need to be right."
Finally, I read it again this morning in 'Why We Eat Our Own' by Michael Cheshire. While interviewing people who had left the church but still considered themselves Christians, Cheshire asked them a question about what it would take for them to return to a local church.
He described their answers, "they would need to be convinced that the Christians in that church were nice. That is the very word they used most. Nice. We must be nicer."
Cheshire continued, "Too many Christians run around being the opposite of nice. Mean. They try to force and push fellow Christians to live exactly like them, parent like them, do marriage like them, eat like them, exercise like them, talk like them, vote like them, and despise the same people as them."
Once again, I see two options: to force others to conform to my ways, or just be nice.
Value the relationship.
That is the goal to which I aspire. It isn't easy though It is so much fun to be right and I can be ridiculously stubborn. Learn the lesson and learn it well. I am repeating this phrase over and over until it sticks.