THE ABIDING LIFE
Did God really say?
By Gwen Sellers
Harmony is something I enjoy, and something I am good at finding. In disagreements, I listen to both sides and look intently for the ways in which they agree. Then I highlight the overlap. In many ways, this can be a good thing. Romans 12:18 says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." But lately I've realized that sometimes my desire for harmony can actually be harmful.
When I am not a disinterested, third party, my desire for harmony can cause me to be easily persuaded. At times, I am more interested in agreeing or avoiding the uncomfortable feelings of discord than I am in reaching truth. It may not be that my mind is actually changed, but I get caught up in the moment and say things I may or may not actually believe or mean. In some ways, this reminds me of Eve and how she was the one deceived (1 Timothy 2:14; 2 Corinthians 11:3). And then I am reminded of Satan's provocative question, "Did God really say?"
We often talk about that question in terms of how Satan plants seeds of doubt and we must remain firm in the Word. I think this is a valid point. Yet I wonder how often we need to ask ourselves, "Did God really say what I think He did?"
Eve didn't appear to know what God really said. When, in Genesis 3:2-3, she tells Satan her understanding of God's instructions, she adds something that we don't see previously recorded. God told Adam not to eat of the tree (Genesis 2:15-17). Eve thinks they are also not allowed to touch the tree.
In academic-type discussions I am often persuaded by arguments in the moment that I later realize are not true, or at least bear further scrutiny. I need time and space away from the discussion — away from my yearning for harmony — to really think through what has been said and to come to a conclusion. Thankfully for me, it is completely acceptable to verbally process with people and even to change one's mind on a matter. It's called learning in community.
But the only way I am going to do any worthwhile learning is to examine the facts. I need to see what God really has said. This means looking at Scripture in context — not only the verse within the paragraph, but within the chapter, within the book, within the cultural context of the audience of that book and its human author, within the overarching narrative of Scripture, etc. And even then, there are other things to consider. For instance, how have others interpreted that verse? Does my understanding of the verse ring true to the realities of life? How does this interact with who I've known God to be? I have a friend who talks about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. It posits that we come to know truth through Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Personal experience can be misinterpreted or biased, but it can also be extremely valuable. Human reason is flawed, as evidenced by the ease with which many of us are persuaded or deceived, but it can be very helpful. Tradition is sometimes amiss, but at least it has stood the test of time and presumably been thought through by many others. And Scripture is God's truth, but it can also be interpreted in different ways. Obviously, interpretation is a huge factor in how we examine truth.
Graciously, God does not leave us alone in our quest for truth. He has given us His Holy Spirit to "guide [us] into all the truth" (John 16:13; see also John 14:17, 26). And He has given us community in which to learn. The great thing about community is that we not only learn intellectually, but experientially.
As I consider my need to examine what God has really said rather than rely on what I think He's said or what I would prefer that He's said or what others are telling me He's said, I am also reminded that disagreement is okay. We are told that the Church is one body with many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Not all the parts work the same way, and, thus, might disagree a bit. Romans 14 certainly allows for disagreement (see also Colossians 2). I even think of the good that came from the seemingly uncomfortable disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). In parting ways, missionary efforts expanded. Sometimes God is calling one person to work in a particular aspect of Kingdom ministry and calling another person to a different aspect. Sometimes a particular biblical truth is more poignant for one person than it is for another. And all of that is okay.
It's okay because God is at the center. He is the One in control, not me. He is able to open my eyes to the ways in which I am being deceived. He is able to establish me firmly so that I will not be easily persuaded (Psalm 18; Ephesians 2:14-21; Colossians 2:6-15; James 1:5). And He keeps it all together. When I get caught up in the moment, He reminds me to take a step back and find my footing in Him. When I am anxious for an answer, He reminds me that He is not in a rush. Study takes time, and it's time God wants me to invest. He does the same things for everyone else. We don't have to create peace on earth. We don't have to have all the answers. God knows the game plan, and He's carrying it out.
When I remember that it all comes back to God, I can rest. It is important to know what God has really said and to search it out. It is important to live at peace with others. But it is even more important for me to find my security in Him. He is the source of truth. My trust is in Him, not my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). Peace isn't about the harmony I create, but about the shalom He gives. The harmony that matters most is that between me and my Lord. From that, harmony with others can result.
Image Credit: Ryk Neethling; "Open Bible with Pen – B&W"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | False-Teaching | Personal-Life
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