Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with a group of people, only to discover you hold a fundamentally different view on a certain topic? Sometimes the difference doesn’t really matter, and it can be fun to share opinions about favourite brands or stores, television shows, movie personalities and the like.
However, when the discussion moves to ethical and moral matters, the freedom to express one’s views quickly dissipates – unless you happen to hold the same view as the majority.
I found myself in this situation recently. I listened quietly as my friends affirmed each other’s views on certain aspects of marriage and relationships. I could feel in my gut that some of their opinions didn’t sit well with me. A couple of other people were also silent. Were they thinking the same as me? Should I say something? Could I dare to be different and gently offer my opinion?
I did. And it didn’t go so well. I was called to justify my opinion and the mood became a little tense. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. Luckily for me, the conversation moved quickly to another topic and I was left to my own thoughts about what I’d said.
In the journey of faith, we’re going to find ourselves in situations where what Scripture and the Church teaches are at odds with the views of secular society. Our conscience will feel even more conflicted when moral and ethical issues personally impact our own lives. In these situations, we discover we can’t just “magic away” the issue. It must be dealt with, and we must discern what is the most loving response that can be given, while staying true to the faith values we hold.
Speaking personally, I’ve shed tears and spent many sleepless nights stewing over situations where my religious beliefs have conflicted with the beliefs of people I love. Occasionally I’ve questioned the Church’s teaching, wondering if it is the most loving response to certain situations. And sometimes, in the desire for harmony, I’ve found it easier to go with the flow.
However, there are two other approaches I’ve found helpful. First, trying to learn more about why the Church or Scripture teaches what it teaches. There is often a very logical and well-thought through reason. Second, asking God, in prayer, to help me find the most loving and honest path forward.
As you ponder those times in your own life when you’ve been challenged to step outside the social norms – indeed, dared to be different – take heart from St Paul’s advice to the early Christian community in Rome:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (Romans 12:2-3; NRSVCE).
Words: Sharon Brewer