Be the Exception to the Rule

Posted on August 25, 2011


One of the mysteries of life is just how dependent we are on other people to be emotionally healthy.  We need others to be willing to invest something of themselves into our lives.  That takes courage on their part and a willingness to be transparent and vulnerable on our part.  One of the most freeing moments in my life has been times when I am forced to re-evaluate a stereotype which I held.  Often this happens when I am confronted with a real life contradiction – something or someone who breaks the stereotype which I may have held previously, even if I wasn’t consciously aware that I held it.

That’s the danger of using terms like “Always” and “Never”; even if it’s just conceptually in our minds.  Logically, it’s easy to falsify that argument and be proven wrong.  All you need to do is show one case when that ‘statement of fact’ is incorrect.  For example, if you tell me, “You never take out the garbage.”  You are really thinking that I rarely take out the garbage or that I do not take out the garbage as much as you would like.  Now, it may be true that I do not often take out the garbage, but the fact that I did take out the garbage last year after that one party we had, proves that you are logically in the wrong.  Therefore, your unspoken purpose, that I would start taking out the garbage more, was foiled.

While we may train ourselves to not use “Always” and “Never” verbally, unless we are in an emotional state (read: arguing) the concepts still seem to pervade our thought patterns and stereotypes of others.  That logically precarious position should be just as easy to falsify.  All you need to do is be confronted by one person, situation or thing that contradicts that position.

A friend of mine reached out in love to a transgender individual at her work place.  She is a Christian, who takes the words of Jesus seriously (not all self-labeled Christians do) and she did it without judgment. People in the church often err by labeling groups of people with broad strokes (e.g. liberals, democrats, homosexuals, etc.) and not spend the time to see that all people are unique individuals.  There may be similarities, but just as all church attenders are not identical clones of one another, people outside of the church are not either, regardless of what group one labels them with.  The reverse is also true, non-church folks tend to label church folks as all being hypocrites, illogical, insecure or hateful. If that were true, how do they account for Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Mother Theresa?

Here’s the hope.  When we individually as Christians engage non-Christians in a Christ-like manner, an amazing thing happens; it helps to falsify the stereotype of Christians that others may have previously held.  Individuals impacted by our Christ-like actions can no longer claim (at least not honestly) or live comfortably with their previous label for “all Christians”. They are forced to broaden their prior stereotypical thinking to now include, at the very least, exceptions to the rule.  They can no longer use “All Christians are…” because they now know a Christian who does not do that.  It’s a two-way street.  As the Christian, in this case my friend, got to know this transgendered individual as a unique person with common human fears, hurts, dreams and hope – we begin to see others more and more like ourselves.  Our common humanity is reinforced and mankind’s artificial “walls of separation” are broken down, if only a little bit.

This is a powerful and rare change to a person’s mindset.  It is one that we as human beings tend to fiercely resist making and only do so when we are forcibly confronted by an undeniable contradictory life experience to our prior way of thinking.  Only then do we begrudgingly reopen that box (Blind Spot) and re-assess.

For Christians, this means stop being the judge, jury and executioner of others.  Instead, be the hands of Christ and love them.  We need to act more like Christ and less like the Pharisees; because that is how the world sees us today.  They see Christians as Jesus saw the Pharisees of old and they expect us to act the same way; with self-righteous judgment and a painful lack of compassion and to do it all from behind the wall of their protected elitist country club (church).  We need to prove them wrong.  Not with just our words, but with our actions as well.

It’s a sad statement that the modern church is more known for what it is against than what is stands for. Why is that?  It is partially because we have allowed our spokesmen to the world to represent us that way and partially because we have failed to engage our community as a Christ follower.  One by one, we can correct that perception, as we individually and communally present to the world an image of Christians that is contrary to their previously held conception.

Be the exception to the rule that leads to re-assessing what it really means to follow Christ.  As you do this, you will find that your perception of others will change as well.

It’s a win-win situation.