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My Way Or the Highway

by Tim O'Hearn

A popular quotation in some circles these days is "my way or the highway." In some ways we in America are turning into a society that believes that individual rights supercede the rights of society. If you don't see it the way I see it, you are free to leave. From both a practical and a scriptural standpoint there are some things wrong with this attitude.

The obvious failing of this attitude is that it fills the highways. To paraphrase A. Lincoln, you may agree with all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you won't agree with all of the people all of the time. There comes a time when each of us disagrees with even our closest friends. If we take the "my way" attitude, then everyone else will be on the highway away from us (and that just might be a good thing). Relationships suffer. When you get a hundred or more people together the probability of agreement among all of them goes down to practically nil. In the church, that means that if everyone took this attitude we would have thousands of congregations of one person each. Jesus promised to be where "two or more are gathered in my name." (Matt 18:20) Obviously he didn't expect the people in his church to insist on their own way in everything.

I have seen a sort of reverse of this quotation in some congregations. Someone will say instead, "My way, or I hit the highway." As I said in another article ("Too Many Congregations", May 2003) this is one of the advantages/dangers of having more than one congregation in a town. If someone doesn't like the new color chosen for the auditorium walls, the new deacon, a new program for the church, or any other thing, he can act like the child who didn't get picked for the team he wanted and say "I'm going to take my ball and go home." When just one person or one family leaves a congregation the problem may not be serious. When a whole segment of the congregation leaves, particularly if it is acrimonious, then the attitude has violated scripture, particularly if the division is over doctrine and not opinion.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Rom 16:17-18)

At best, even if the disagreement isn't over one man's doctrine, serious disagreements between Christians show the wrong face to the world. It is not the face of Jesus. "By this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (Jn 13:35) When it gets to the point that we have to split, that one has to take to the highway, we are not showing love to the world.

Another thing wrong with the "my way" attitude is that most of us have no idea of what the right way is. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jer 10:23) When we try to do things our way, we forget God's way.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9)

The auld song says "Ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road." The problem is, when we want to do it our way, we are taking the low road to death. When it comes down to my way or God's way, my way just is not good enough. Between the two choices, our motto should be "my way or the High Way."