In our ministry, we refer to it as the “Principle of Perceptions”…it is one of our 5 Principles of Unity in the church. It simply states: I have some responsibility for how others perceive me. It is simple to state, but it becomes awfully complicated in application. There is a scriptural principle which calls upon each of us to take reasonable measures in order to preserve our testimony before others. The more leadership responsibility we have (i.e., the more influence we have), the greater those measures become.
Where relationships are concerned, perception is far more important than reality. In our relationship, if you perceive me to be an abuser, then that perception will affect our relationship whether I actually am an abuser or not. In our relationship, if you perceive me to be a racist, then that perception will impact our relationship whether I actually am a racist or not. In our relationship, if you perceive me to have anger issues, then that perception will dictate much about our relationship whether I actually have those issues or not. And so on and so forth…you get the picture.
So, where relationships are concerned (and where my ability to be a leader or influencer in your life is concerned), I simply must take some responsibility for how I am perceived. I must always weigh the cost of my choices on that scale. There will be times when I must go ahead and choose in such a way which costs me that influence. And there will be other times when I will choose to sacrifice my freedom in order to preserve my influence with you or with others. This is life. This is leadership. And, most importantly, this is what following Christ entails.
So, it was with terrific sadness that I left the voting booth a few weeks ago and, for the first time in my life, knew I would not be sharing with anyone how I voted. It was quite the quagmire, really…it speaks to where we are as a country. Frankly, it speaks to where we are as a church as well. In my Christian circle of influence, I would almost certainly have lost some degree of testimony with some of my “friends” no matter what decision I made in the voting booth. A vote for this candidate meant losing the respect of those friends. A vote for that candidate meant losing the respect of these friends. A write-in vote meant losing the respect of yet another group of friends. And staying home and refusing to vote meant losing the respect of yet another group of friends altogether. It is sad, but true. This is what we have become. Our respect for one another is now hinged to how we voted in the last election. At least that is true of many of our relationships. And the only way to know which ones is by testing it.
Mind you, the point of this post is not to argue why that is such a sad state of things. I am not here trying to convince anyone of why we SHOULDN’T judge each other that way. Maybe that is for another post. I am just here acknowledging that it is our current reality. I cannot tell you how I voted without risking more than I am willing to risk. I would rather just keep it my secret and at least have a shot at continuing to be a Godly influence in your life.
Some reading this post would not agree. Some would gladly tell how they voted and would be willing to let the chips fall where they may. I’ve already seen it on social media. “I voted for …feel free to delete me from your list of friends.” I can absolutely respect that. Again, these are the choices of which life is made. I am just choosing differently. Your friendships…all of them…matter to me. There may well be issues that arise between us in the future which could break that friendship. That is certainly possible. I do not deny that. I am simply deciding that this will not be one of them.
This election has taught us more than any of us really wanted to know about the brokenness of our country. We have racists in our country (and in our church). We have intolerant, abusive, bigots in our country (and in our church). We have people willing to prevent the birth of unborn babies for no greater reason than inconvenience in our country (and in our church). And we have relationships so surface and shallow as to rise and fall based on how we voted in the last election…in our country and in our church. Now we know these things. We are more flawed, and more in need of a Savior, than any of us thought. We have looked in the mirror and have seen who we are. The task now before us is to try to be better. And here we go.
© Blake Coffee