Only Different

Only Different

A couple of years ago, while working on our downstairs area in our church building, I noticed something about men who do construction (even men who are home building types).  Our building was built in 1853.  That makes our building 169 years old (I had to get out the calculator for that one).  During our recent construction we had to expose some of the inner parts of our building’s structure.  What I found interesting was how many of the men were critical of how the workers in 1853 did their construction.  “Wonder why they did it that way?”  “I wouldn’t have done it that way at all”.  “They should have done…”.  Almost, to the man, everyone shared their opinion as to how things were built.  I understand that codes are a lot stricter today and that building methods have changed but this was more about differing opinions about how to do the same project. People have their own unique ways of building, that have worked in the past, and so they see things differently than other builders. They truly would have done things differently.  Different but not necessarily better.  I had a lot of fun reminding guys that even though this guy did it differently, it was still standing some 160 years later.  He must have done something right!
Why is it that we feel so free to add our opinion to so many situations? It used to be called “adding your two cents”.  Some people believe that phrase is an exaggeration from the phrase, “A penny for your thoughts”.  People ended up giving more thoughts than what was paid for.  I have heard so much of it lately that I wonder if it is a unique Central Jersey problem or if it happens all over?  I know I have been guilty of it and have had to apologize for adding my two cents into situations that I have not been asked for even my penny’s worth.  Since I have noticed it, I have tried to do some evaluation of what is being shared.  My unscientific evaluation is that 90% of what is said is a different opinion rather than a helpful one.  It is not biblical advice or even mentoring advice.  It is just our two cents.
“I wouldn’t have bought that one”.  “I was looking for the same thing but thought this kind was better”.  “I do not think that I would have shared that”.  Sometimes not saying anything at all is the same thing only different.  Our friends work hard at something and they want to share it with you and you give no response to what they have done.  “Interesting, why did you build it that way”?  I heard one person, as their friend shared something they bought in red, say one thing only, “I like blue”.  Maybe you hear a sermon and the only thing you share with the preacher is a different point you would have made.  
Do we understand how discouraging these kind of things can be to others? How our children long to hear us say something positive and the only thing we share is a differing opinion as to how you would have done something?  I do not think you mean to demean their opinion but it really does say to them that your way is better.  Why do we feel the need to share how we would have done something different?  Or how we came to a different conclusion as to what was wise to buy?  Why share that you would pick a different color?  Or pluck your eyebrows differently?  It comes from a prideful heart that truly believes your different way is better.  I would arrange the flowers this way. Think about is not a Bible issue and therefore, it is an opinion.  Even if culture dictates you arrange the flowers a certain way and most of culture will like it that way, maybe your friend just wants to be different.  Can we not celebrate their difference?
When my son was in high school he dressed, to my wife and I, weirdly.  His hair was messy, he wore a white studded belt, and he liked pearl button shirts.  My wife struggled with giving her opinions.  I shared that this was not a Bible issue, it was not immodest, and so let him dress like all the other kids.  He strove to be different in his testimony and actions so his dress was simply a matter of taste. When we finally went to the High School for an event, we noticed that most of the other kids were dressed as we would have liked.  Our son was the only one who dressed and wore his hair like he did.  He was an individual who made a choice.  Different, not better.  Of course, this only led to greater ribbing at home as I now made fun of his white, studded belt.  Point is, that if it is not a Bible issue, then it is just someone’s opinion.  We may feel strongly that our opinion is right but in reality it is only worth about two cents. Keep it to yourself.
I believe this is a difficult message for us to practice.  So let me give you a first step.  Ephesians 4:29 says this, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  It is hard to believe that by giving your opinion it can be  corrupting talk but if it discourages those who hear it, then it can be.  But the first step I want you to take, if you struggle to grasp that your opinion is not gospel, is to seek to minister grace. Grace is giving or getting something you do not deserve.  If you do not like what someone else has done, and it is not a Bible issue, minister grace.  Minister grace as you comment on their hair. Minister grace as you taste their soup.  Minister grace as you watch them do things differently than you would do.  Remember, your two cents is different but not necessarily better.

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