There’s a passage in the book of Acts in the Bible where the early followers of Jesus are said to ‘spend much time together.’ And this is a time of growth and flourishing in the early Church - despite opposition and adversity.
I was struck by the passage. And it made me ask how much people in my own Christian community spend together (outside Sunday morning services) and whether spending more time together might really re-energise our Church.
Spending time with others is important. As Christians, we need to spend time with Jesus (by reading our Bibles, coming to Church and praying) and with fellow Christians – both to encourage one another in the faith but also to enable us to see where and when we are getting things wrong. In order to journey towards truth.
No one likes, of course, to be wrong. It seems to imply we are lazy or stupid if we get things wrong. But, at the same time, we realise and accept that we are human and all human beings make mistakes.
In the 5th Century St Augustine said Fallor, ergo sum - which means I err, therefore I am. (Many centuries before Descartes’ more famous I think, therefore I am.)
It is fundamental to our human condition to err, to make mistakes, to be wrong.
But how does being wrong make you feel? Well, it makes you feel devastated, ashamed, embarrassed. Right?
Well, no – not right.
The thing is that we only feel devastated, ashamed and embarrassed when we REALISE we are wrong.
When we are simply wrong in our thinking we don’t then know we are wrong, So we don’t feel any of these things. In fact, we feel like we are right!
George Bush thought he was right when he invaded Iraq because he thought he would find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction there. He thought he would destroy the weapons, liberate the Iraqi people and instate democracy. But he was wrong.
What happens when we think we are right and others don’t
Often we are so certain of our rightness that we can’t understand how others don’t see things the way we do.
We, therefore, presume they are ignorant – that they don’t know the facts. We try telling them, we try berating them with evidence. But still they don’t come over to our way of seeing things.
So then we think they must be idiots.
But we know that they are perfectly intelligent, educated people.
And so what do we conclude?
Well, we don’t even start to consider the smallest possibility that we might be wrong – either completely or partially. That our opponents might have a point in their perception and understanding. So we conclude that they must be evil. And we start to label, ostracise and demonise them.
And we all know where that leads.
Importance of spending time with others
The truth is we should live in the knowledge that, at any time on any matter, we may be wrong. And spending time with others – particularly, as Christians, spending time with Jesus and fellow Christians – can help us and them to come closer to truth.
We all have agendas and interpretations that we truly believe are right but that really need greater questioning. Where we need to do more listening. Where we need to spend more time with others.
This is why community is so essential to the Christian journey. If we really want to seek truth.
So step outside the tiny terrified space that is insisting on your ‘rightness’ and dare to consider you may be wrong. That can sound a scary concept. But, if you have the courage to do it, it is truly liberating.