It’s OK to have different preferences

By Gerry Lewis | Published Saturday, September 1, 2018

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We all have preferences. We prefer circumstances in which they are acknowledged.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with our having preferences. In fact, our preferences flow out of our God-given, unique design. Combine that God-given design with life-shaping experiences, and we can develop some strong personal preferences. Still, not a bad thing.

What happens at the convergence of our personal preferences and our sinful self-centeredness? What happens at the intersection of our self-centered preferences and the self-centered preferences of others? It’s like an intersection with no stop signs, where everyone is determined to go first.

Take it a step further; not only is everyone determined to go first, but everyone is offended that anyone else would dare encroach on their intersection.

Why should I be required to yield the right of way to someone who is not on my road? Why should I even be required to slow down and consider any other road but my own?

But what if intersections were not simply places to decide who gets to go, and who has to yield? What if they were places to stop and remember what it means to live in community, rather than isolation?

What’s your dream community?

Is it a place where everyone likes the same food and the same music, votes for the same candidate, drives the same cars and reads the same books, cheers for the same teams, mows their yard on the same day and goes to bed at the same time? That’s not community. There’s no place for conversation, learning or growth. There’s no accountability to each other.

There’s no call to love because there are no decisions that require us to selflessly seek the best for someone else.

Church would be irrelevant because there would be no purpose for anything beyond maintaining the status quo and remembering how wonderful it is that we all like the same things.

That last paragraph is not a hypothetical church. It is real in far too many locations.

In his powerfully insightful and challenging book, “Subversive Sabbath: The surprising power of rest in a nonstop world,” A. J. Swoboda writes, “I am convinced that the kind of community we yearn for and need most is severely lacking in the church today – a place where we learn to love even the people we do not like.”

If the church is not the intersection where people can learn that lesson to come to a four-way stop and choose to selflessly seek to bless travelers who don’t share all our preferences, then how will we ever expect to have a voice to speak into the larger community and culture?

Jesus was once asked to identify the greatest commandment. Here’s His reply: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

It’s time for us to recognize that we don’t have to like people and share their preferences to love them and intentionally seek their benefit. It’s also time that we stop turning differences of opinion and preference into questions of intelligence, compassion, character and value.

If there’s going to be a silver platter, let’s be the ones carrying it instead of waiting for its delivery.

How will you respond to God’s call to love even those you don’t like? Be amazing today, my friends!

Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association in Decatur.

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