The Relational Covenant:
1. Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder
2. Believe the Best
3. Talk To, Not About
A special series by Jack McQueeney, Executive Director of the Glen Eyrie Group
We’re back with the next part in our blog series, The Relational Covenant!
To read the introduction to this series, please click here.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BELIEVE THE BEST?
Believe the Best is one of the hardest parts of The Relational Covenant. Why? Because choosing to Believe the Best shoves us right out of judgment, insecurities, and self-absorption. It deals with the motives of our heart and forces us to think about why we believe a certain thing about a certain person. In short, it ensures a successful discipleship relationship!
To Believe the Best means to not assume the worst about a person. And this may seem an overly simplistic definition, but it’s an important distinction: to assume means to take for granted without any proof or to take upon oneself. To believe means to have faith in something.
When we assume someone’s motives, we are taking the judgment of their choices upon ourselves. In pride, we usurp the Father and declare that we actually know best and can read the attitudes of the heart. Without any proof except our own self-confidence in how we perceive the actions of another, we assume, judge, and condemn the worst possible motives of others. (All while we often choose to remember only the best motives within ourselves.)
However, to believe means to have faith in our brother or sister in Christ. It means stepping outside any automatic judgments or assumptions we might make about another.
Moreover, did you know that best means of the highest standing? Probably. But did you connect it to Philippians 2:3, which commands us to “in humility, value others above yourselves”? This is such an important verse. Humility in and of itself is one of the richest spiritual graces for which we can strive. (If you haven’t taken the time to study this word on your own, please do so!) To humble ourselves means, in the simplest of terms, to not exalt ourselves or place our own preferences, opinions, or even well-being ahead of another’s. So to Believe the Best means that even when a friend snaps at us, we don’t choose to be offended and so exalt our need to be spoken to kindly ahead of our friend’s heart issue. Rather, we choose in humility to set aside the insult to ourselves and consider what our friend needs: perhaps he genuinely needs a gentle reminder that his tone is harsh, or perhaps she has had a hard day and simply needs a safe outlet.
To take Believing the Best one step further, consider Proverbs 17:9: “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” When we choose reconciliation, choose not making a big deal out of someone else’s errors, and choose to not be easily offended, we choose to promote love. Remember that this is Jesus’ greatest command to us, that we would love each other as He loved us (John 13:34). And how does He love us? Paul summarizes these thoughts nicely in Colossians 3:12-14: “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it” (The Message).
On a deeper level, however, this goes beyond believing the best about a person. Actually, it is a firm confidence in believing the best of God. Walking in faith and the promise that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Php. 1:6). It’s rooting ourselves in the knowledge that we don’t need to be another person’s Holy Spirit, but that we can trust the True Holy Spirit to lead and guide our brothers and sisters in Christ along the path He wants them to walk. And yes, our spiritual siblings will stumble and wander occasionally, as we do too. But, we can Believe the Best about the choices they make because we can trust that the Spirit is guiding them. Choosing to Believe the Best frees us from pride, welcomes us into a deeper trust in how the Spirit works, and opens the door for us to truly Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder with our sibling in camaraderie, rather than sit above them in judgment.
When we choose to Believe the Best, we choose to force our heart’s motives right into the light. How often do you read a co-worker’s email and automatically assume it is written in a condescending tone? How often do you see a friend’s Facebook status or Instagram post and believe it is self-congratulatory? So often, we perceive another person’s words or actions as not only directed primarily at us, but also in a negative light. And why is this? Often, it’s because we’re the center of our thoughts, our own personal god: on a subconscious level, anyone not focused on us or offering us flattering praise is found wanting.
Other times (again, usually on a subconscious level), when we see someone make different choices than we would make, we instinctively feel threatened, as though our choices have been judged and found wanting. It’s far easier to choose to look down or assign–if not nefarious, at least foolish–motives to someone’s choices than to accept that sometimes, two options can both be right.
And yet other times, it’s hard to Believe the Best about someone because, plain and simple, we don’t like that person. We don’t want to have to Believe the Best because that would require that we find empathy for or common ground with someone we truly struggle to relate with.
When we choose to Believe the Best, we choose to force our opinions about someone under a motive-examining microscope: WHY is it hard to Believe the Best about this person? Am I harboring a spirit of self-exultation, self-righteousness? Do I feel insecure about the choices I’ve made for my life? Am I simply being petty? And this is so uncomfortable. But for anyone who wants to follow Jesus, it’s essential. He didn’t call us into community with people we easily like and who live the same way we do. He called us to live like He did (1 John 2:6), and He drew around Himself myriad people: political rebels and government employees, tax collectors and teachers of the law, centurions and sinners. We will not be able to live successfully in a diverse community of believers without choosing to Believe the Best about our whole Body, every member.
Please note, however, that our unity is what the Enemy most despises. He hates that our love for one another reveals the character of Jesus. All Satan wants is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). If we give him a foothold to cause division, he will take it! Remember, anytime that you choose not to Believe the Best about another person, you are not only undermining the work of the Kingdom, but you are equipping the Enemy to do what he does best. That’s why it’s so very important to not only Believe the Best, but to choose to Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder! Next week, we’ll dive into what this looks like practically in a discipleship relationship.
©2018 by Jack McQueeney. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without express permission.