Just My Opinion

Monday, September 30, 2013 — Week of Proper 21, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 89:1-18 (morning) // 89:19-52 (evening)

2 Kings 17:24-41

1 Corinthians 7:25-31

Matthew 6:25-34

About ten years ago, I felt very distressed about a relationship that I was in with someone who didn’t understand why anyone would go to church. He also had some harsh critiques of Christians. I felt a great deal of pressure to justify my commitment to church and my attraction to Christ. I felt like I had to refute all stereotypes of Christians, and like I needed an airtight worldview that made sense of the gospel for modern, secular Americans.

I spoke to a priest who relieved me of this burden with a few simple words: “Instead of trying to explain why people SHOULD go to church, why not just explain why YOU go to church?” This suggestion changed my perspective completely. I didn’t need to defend the Christian faith for all time. All I needed to explain was that the preaching I heard helped me to live for reasons beyond myself, and that the service of evensong gave my soul the rest that it could find nowhere else.

Some of our readings today also take the pressure off. Paul, for example, admits that he doesn’t have all the answers. Addressing the topic of whether the unmarried should marry, he writes, “I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” Instead of prescribing a permanent guideline, Paul just gives his opinion. Of course, Paul’s opinion is more than just his own subjective or self-interested angle. He is a trustworthy witness, by the Lord’s mercy.

Paul’s trustworthiness doesn’t make him right on every topic. Paul expected the world to pass away at any moment, so there was no point in trying to change one’s estate from unmarried to married, or vice versa. There was also no point in mourning, rejoicing, buying, or selling.

He was incorrect about the timeline for the world’s dissolution, but we, his readers, extend him some mercy and still value his opinions. His teachings on fulfilling our commitments while embracing our freedoms are still helpful guides for finding our way through an impermanent world.

The Psalmist this morning also has an opinion. His cosmology and theology don’t always square with scientific and orthodox consensus, but transmitting an accurate worldview isn’t the point of his song. The Psalmist envisions a sky full of many gods, but, in his opinion, one stands out: “Your love, O Lord, forever will I sing.” The Psalmist speaks for himself and declares, “I am persuaded that your love is established forever; you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.”

What is your opinion? What are your persuasions? Our views about how to relate to the world and how to describe the universe might change over time or from age to age. If we can be as straightforward as Paul in identifying what views are simply opinions, and as sincere as the psalmist in proclaiming our persuasions for the God of love and faithfulness, then we can add our own voice to a song that is likely to endure from age to age. By the Lord’s mercy, we might find ourselves sharing a trustworthy vision of God.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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