“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. –Isaiah 55:8
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. –1 Corinthians 13:12
There’s an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Our natural human tendency is to cling to the familiar. What we know, even when it may be incorrect or unhealthy, is more comfortable that what we do not know. In the body of Christ, we tend to cling to the version of the truth we have always been taught, or what makes sense to us. Some of this may be motivated by people’s concerns about getting sucked in to false doctrines. This is a legitimate concern and something we need to guard ourselves against so we don’t blow here and there like a plastic shopping bag in the wind. However, the other extreme is to refuse to accept any other perspective but our own. We stubbornly cling to the interpretations of scripture we are familiar with and refuse to consider anyone else’s interpretation. The problem is, when we do this we risk missing God. This is what happened in Jesus’ day. People had interpreted prophecy in specific ways, and therefore developed specific expectations of how the Messiah would appear and what would go down once He appeared. Because of that, they missed the Messiah when He was right under their noses, because He didn’t look or act as they expected.
If we do not want to miss God in our midst today, we must first be humble enough to recognize that we aren’t smart enough to have everything figured out. God’s thoughts our higher than ours—He’s smarter than we are! We simply aren’t capable of having perfect understanding of all the mysteries of God. As Paul said, we understand in part, not in whole. We are dependent on Him to teach us through His Holy Spirit because our perspective is influenced by our own culture, experience, and brokenness. Second, we must desire truth more than we desire to maintain tradition. We must hold on to our traditions loosely, being willing to change our thinking if God reveals we’ve misunderstood or been taught something in error. If you ask ten Christians about any given passage of Scripture, you are likely to get ten different perspectives on what that passage means. By stubbornly clinging to whatever our own interpretation is, we could miss a deeper, more freeing truth that God may have revealed to others. It is pride in our own ability to have the “right” answers that causes division, even divisions as extreme as church splits. It leads to our present denominational lines, which divide the body of Christ rather than unifying it.
I like this quote from Krister Stendahl, a Harvard theologian: “It is not so much what we do not know, but what we think we know, that obstructs our vision.” I truly believe if the body of Christ is to mature we must be humble enough to be flexible; not so flexible that we run with whatever teaching is in front of us at the moment, but to study with an open mind, relying on God to lead us into His Truth even if it is unfamiliar to us. Listen to others’ perspectives and then do your own study. Pray about it and ask God to either confirm if it is Truth, or to lead you to the Truth if that particular perspective is flawed. We truly need each other and the help of the Holy Spirit as we seek to understand the mysteries of God. May He help us to hunger for His Truth more than we hunger to stay in our comfort zone.