Following on from last week’s theme about listening to people with extreme views, I read in the lectionary this week (1 Thessalonians 5) that we should try everything and hold fast to that which is good. It has taken me a long time to understand that this may be different for different people. Those who have been brought up in the Muslim faith, for instance, are more likely to find that a strict adherence to prayer at certain times of the day is exactly what they need in this confusing and fast-changing world. Methodists, in contrast, are more likely to discover that a good sing sees them through when the Samaritan helpline rings busy.
Even within a single Christian Church, there is a terrific variety of lifestyles; and thank goodness for that, otherwise if there were people who took pleasure in arranging flowers, there would be no-one to notice that a wall needed repointing. We all contribute according to our skills and experiences. What gets us through the day differs from person to person. Expecting each person to hold the same beliefs with equal fervour is a big mistake, made by many preachers and teachers in the church. What is good for one may not be good for most but all are important. Each has to hold fast to that which is good for them.
The same applies in marriage. Two people, however much they feel “as one” come from different backgrounds and have different skills and experiences. Different beliefs and habits keep them going. With luck they complement each other but, as there are only two of them, inevitably there will be tasks that neither enjoys, there will be necessary activities that go against the grain for both. Each has to be on the look-out to take an equal share of unpopular activities for a long and happy marriage. What is good for one is not necessarily good for the other. Some people choose to trade companionship for freedom to live as they please, and they are important too.
Success for a group of people, whether a church, a sewing circle, a rugby club or a branch of a political party, lies in identifying jobs that accord with the beliefs, skills, experience and inclination of different members. Get the wrong person in a job and everyone suffers. It is up to each individual to work out for themselves whether this particular lifestyle is good for them just now. It is up to those who hold power to be on the lookout for those who would do the job better, and to know when to hand it over.
The other implication, of course, is that we should not judge others for whom different things are important. Those in power, who have experienced success, find it difficult to understand the lives of those who have been unsuccessful and are consequently poor or without influence. Compassion and love are far more important than knowing what is right and wrong. We rely on difference. Try everything and hold fast to that which is good – for you.