July 30, 2013
“I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You”
Why are those words so hard for Christians to say?
“I’ve cared too much and not enough in the same breath.”
- Derek Webb, “I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You.”
In high school one of my closest friends went to a Baptist church. It was the type of Baptist church where playing an electric guitar would be stirring things up. Around the time we became good friends, I began to connect with a charismatic church. People worshiped loudly, prayed passionately, danced wildly, cried unashamedly, prayed for the sick and talked openly about the supernatural. I was captured.
In my infinite wisdom I shared almost every detail of my new worship experiences with my Baptist friend. As you can imagine, we had some pretty big differences of opinion. Unsurprisingly, often my times of story-telling became theological arguments. I walked away from many of those arguments feeling like I’d won.
I’ve been around Christianity and the church for my entire life. My parents were missionaries, most of my family is Christian, and I currently attend a Christian college. I’m still pretty young, but old enough to pick up on a few patterns. And I don’t think that my smug attitude at scoring truth-points was unique.
I’ve recently been working as part of the launch team for Derek Webb’s new record (shameless plug, I know…). As I’ve listened to the upcoming album, its central theme of reconciliation haunts me. I have to wonder: why do Christians have such a hard time saying “sorry”? In a faith founded on confession and repentance, where did we go wrong?
After high school I realized what a pompous jerk I had been. I called my friend to apologize. As we were talking, we both confessed that we had had a mindset of ‘I can’t let this other person be right!’ Our conversation helped heal our friendship, and our mutual apologies cleared up murky waters.
Webb’s line captures what had happened with my friend and I perfectly: “I’ve cared too much and not enough in the same breath.” I’ve seen that too many times in the church and in myself. We’re to be known by our love, but too often we’re known by our t-shirts, statements of faith, and church affiliations. We follow a God who reconciled us to himself despite our differences and yet we often refuse to welcome others in the same spirit of grace that Christ has welcomed us.
I’m not downplaying the need for strong opinions of theology and practice. It’s essential that we have healthy beliefs about God, ourselves, and others. But can we truly welcome others as long as we place the desire to be right before our love for them?
It’s possible to disagree and love deeply. It’s possible to challenge what others believe and love them deeply. What matters more—my pet doctrine, or the brothers and sisters right in front of me?
I think that I need to tell people that I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you. In the name of reconciliation, in the name of embrace, in the name of a God who was literally dying to be in a friendship with mankind, I need to say those words.
So to my non-Christian friends in high school, I cared too much about making sure people knew I was a Christian and not enough about your well-being. I cared too much about evangelizing and not enough about showing you the love and compassion of Christ. I was wrong, I’m sorry and I love you.
To my Christian friends in high school, I cared too much about being a charismatic and not enough about being a loving person. I cared too much about being in charge and not enough about serving you. I was wrong, I’m sorry and I love you.
To the church, I cared too much about pointing out your flaws and not enough about reminding you that you’re beautiful. I cared too much about telling you that I thought you were wrong and not enough about walking alongside you in love through struggles. I was wrong, I’m sorry and I love you.
To my school, I cared too much about the fact that I felt different and not enough about the fact that we are one in Christ. I cared too much about my plans in life and not enough about showing you the abundant life that can be found in Jesus. I cared too much about talking about the Bible and not enough about talking about your struggles, pains, dreams, and hopes. I was wrong, I’m sorry and I love you.
To all of us—we’re closer to one another than we think.
Daniel Dixon is a friend, son, brother, teacher, student, leader, follower and the beloved. Originally from Salem, OR, he currently attends Simpson University in Redding, California.