Keith Wishum: Not mine!
Snatching a toy, the two-year old screamed, “Mine!” Nearby adults chuckled. They had heard this before and knew that it was normal for a child to be childish.
Clutching the sheet music for a contemporary song, an angry 22-year-old snarls, “Why does it always have to be your way, the same old tired songs? Why don’t we ever use the music of my generation?”
Knuckles whitening around his well-worn hymnbook, the startled 72-year-old responds, “Why do you always want to change everything? These are my favorite songs, the ones I grew up on — the ones I learned from my grandmother. Now you want to just throw them away!”
When adults clash, nobody chuckles. It’s not so cute and innocent anymore. Of course, adults don’t usually come right out and say, “Mine!” More often, at least when it’s a religious toy being fought over, it’s “This is God’s” that you hear.
If you listen closely, however, you can still hear the selfish cry of the two-year-old. “Mine! I want it my way!”
Paul heard it all the way from Rome long ago. Christians were at odds about whether it was wrong to eat meat that had been sacrificed as an offering in a pagan temple — as most meat sold in the market had been. The more liberal minded said, “Aww, the idol isn’t real, so it doesn’t matter. A steak is a steak no matter where it came from; let’s eat!”
The more conservative were horrified by such a suggestion. “How can we possibly condone pagan sacrifices and participate in idolatry by eating these sacrifices?”
Both sides said “Mine!” is right. Both insisted that the other change. The apostle Paul said, “No, either way is fine; just follow your conscience.”
But Paul also gave this additional guidance: “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15). In other words, be willing to give up “Mine” for the sake of your brother even when you are right. The well-being of the other person is more important than “Mine.”
Where did Paul get such a radical idea? Maybe from the words of an innocent man facing execution for others’ sins — the one who said, “not my will, but yours be done.”
“Not mine, but yours.” That’s a far cry from “Mine”! That’s the way I need to follow.
Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.