NEVER CUT WHAT CAN BE UNTIED. The Portuguese are asking a lot of us with this proverb. It doesn’t take many seconds of attempting to untie a knot before we stomp off and grab the scissors! Impatient with some irritating behavior, we cut ourselves off from neighbors, defending some small corner of what we deem to be ours. Our need to be right and politically loyal can cause us to wink at lies and reject constructive ideas. We walk away from civic organizations for small slights, from our churches for their shortcomings, and, worst of all, we may cut our ties to family and friends out of feelings of rectitude or hurt. And through all of this we talk, talk, talk—justifying ourselves with our “many words” (NRSV Matt. 6:7).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who served as an Anglican minister at Westminster Chapel, once wrote that a Christian “has two men in him, the old and the new.” And so, if we want to untie rather than cut in our relationships, we need to quit asking, “Why are THEY like that” (Vol. 1, 123)? They, AND WE, are “like that,” because the natural instincts of the “old man,” are dominating. But Christ comes to deliver us from these old hates and fears, from this need to quarrel, to best others. He establishes in our hearts a “new view of the world” and so “a new view” of others as well (Lloyd-Jones Vol. 1, 123).
Embracing this spirit of Christ, we pray, “Dear Lord, show me the difference between my opinions and your truth.” And then, because we’re a long way from perfection, we’ll probably still wonder, will the Lord change the others too? Maybe. If they’re receptive. But probably not in ways we’ll readily see. That’s okay. The only change we truly need happens within us. The Lord lifts our motives, drawing us more often into those peace-filled moments when we’re “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (NRSV James 1:19). (Turning Aside to See, chapter 8)