Either/Or Thinking in a Both/And World

Gina Butz culture, grace, loved 2 Comments

Either/Or Living in a Both/And World

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Our daughter loved watching Once Upon a Time, a wonderful show about fairy tale characters stuck in our world. She often asked me, “Is he a good guy, or a bad guy?” She wanted to know, to be sure who to like or dislike.

I had watched further than her, so I knew – those characters surprise. They weren’t as clear-cut as we imagine. I had to keep telling her, (and I’m thankful that the characters evolved to prove my point) that people aren’t good or bad. Maybe the evil queen can love. Captain Hook can be sacrificial. Snow White can make poor choices.

Sometimes issues and people aren’t either/or.

But the thing is, we want them to be. Gravitating toward black and white thinking is easier because then we feel solid. We know where we stand. Drawing lines tells us who to include, who to ignore. We know where to put our energy into defending a stance. It feels safe. We think we’re winning.

It all feels sometimes like a giant game of tug of war. This side is right. No, this one is. Either you stand with me or you stand against me. There is no middle ground. Either my side is true, or yours is.

From a Christian standpoint, this feels right. Truth isn’t relative, is it?

The problem is that we draw the circle of absolutes much larger than God does.

We label people in a way He won’t. Jesus spent the most time with people our society would call “bad.” He called out the “good” people on their hidden sin. He doesn’t categorize us in black and white terms; he sees us for the glorious messes we are, the contradictions of our hearts. Jesus sees the both/and in us.

It’s challenging for us to hold those contradictions.

Easier to pretend some of them aren’t true. We write some people off because they are not worth our attention, time, compassion. They are either heroes or villains, either good or bad.

But to be both/and people means we need to open our hearts wider. We need to sit in peoples’ stories so we can know the white police officer who is just doing the best he can, and the black man who is tired of people assuming he just doesn’t respect authority.

We can ache for unborn babies at the same time that we are shocked by the ruthless killing of animals.

While we recognize that our systems are in need of reform, our hearts still break for the desperate who try to cross borders.

We can disagree with leaders and not vilify them. When we see people living “other” than us we know that we can still be “and.”

Let’s stop being either/or people in a both/and world. Drawing lines, taking sides-these keep us from moving toward one another with the gospel.

Let us be like Jesus, who sits with people in their contradictions, the mess, the ache of the world and its fallenness, and He loves. The good news is this – He cares about all of it. We can too.



We Are All Glorious Messes

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Comments 2

  1. Oh I so relate to her! I struggle big time with the good/bad split. I even do it to myself…seeing myself as all good or all bad. Learning to live in gray-scale is hard, but much more rewarding because it’s so much fuller than just black or white!

    1. Wow – I JUST posted that. You’re a fast reader! 🙂 Yes, it’s so easy to do the good/bad split. I would hope that our lead foot with everyone could be compassion. That might actually bring about the change we long for.

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