Acting Against Your Better Judgment

Peter's Vision by Henry Davenport Northrop, 1894 (Domain) Wikimedia Commons
Peter’s Vision by Henry Davenport Northrop
Wikimedia Commons (Domain)

I enjoy provocative dialogue. The topic and interlocutor don’t matter; if it’s exploring theory and ideas, I’m in. What I like even more is leading those conversations and debates and challenging people to consider various aspects of the subject regardless of their stance on it. It forces people to think more broadly and engage where they otherwise would not.

That’s how our minds grow. For instance, most people don’t like reading dictionaries and encyclopedias, something I enjoy doing. But they would be hard-pressed to take away nothing from doing so; learning is the point of those books. Further, building vocabulary and adding new information extends one’s range with language, knowledge, and, importantly, concepts and boosts intelligence. Yet what we’re not exposed to can never be understood.

“That’s How I See It—Next Point!”

Clearly, I like discussing the Bible and faith matters. I recall an exchange between some persons in which I presented Pauline injunctions in the Pastorals regarding church order. I asked for their assessment and opinions of Paul’s instructions for contemporary church life. I quickly noticed something peculiar. They were adamant, even defensive, about their interpretation and application of Paul’s admonitions.

The conversation was surprisingly difficult. I found myself struggling to make these people think deeper and address other implications. Trying to be a good interrogator, I fought to keep back my own opinions from being too quickly apparent; but that failed because the messenger was getting shot! I was saddened that we ended frustrated over the scriptures, but I also hated the fact that they didn’t allow themselves to think from all angles about the topic. Instead, they looked at it and sized it up too quickly.

I was disturbed about their attitude on many levels: How will one relate well with people in an increasingly pluralistic society? To what degree do you expect your own opinions and beliefs to be respected? Are there things that you could be missing? And when it comes to God and spiritual things, what happens when God leads us out of our comfort zones and against our personal rules? Intransigence, or being uncompromising, can render a person incapable of being led by the Spirit. They will close themselves off from illumination and the Spirit’s impressions on the heart.

It is no less a form of being unteachable and fleshly. Consider it: when God puts it in one’s heart or mind to act in a certain manner, to assist one or speak something to another, that person might think to do it but will fight it or justify an excuse to act contrary to what he heard from the Lord; and that’s all because we know what we know and don’t sway from our position.

A Vision Worth Remembering

Peter’s dramatic vision of the sheet of unclean animals (Acts 10) is a worthy reminder that we probably shouldn’t be too quickly set in our ways and close-minded when there are other viewpoints and options. The vision is really interesting because God corrects Peter on the revelation of grace to the Gentiles, to whom one might assume God was calling Peter. Instead, Peter was called to the Jews (cf. Gal. 2:7-9).

It’s important to God to get our general thinking straight and speaks to the personal constitution he expects of his people, indeed humankind.

In my post entitled “Rogue Conviction” I write, “Perhaps a belief is to be possessed or espoused, not vice versa, lest believers (in anything) risk being driven by their beliefs and so become fanatics. People who sacrifice themselves to their convictions often become instruments of those ideas to beat others into subjection.”

You know, this is the attitude that put Christ to death, and it is critical for us Christians to get it right.

10 thoughts on “Acting Against Your Better Judgment

  1. There are things we should not be stubborn about, such as obsession over rituals. And there are things we simply cannot compromise, such as the resurrection.

    Knowing the difference between the two is the key to being inclusive, while at the same time retaining our unique Christian flavour.

    You are so right when you say “it is critical for us Christians to get it right.”

    • Thanks for getting the point. There are so many points on which we can be open and flexible, or not so rigid about things. But there are other things where compromise is impossible. You mentioned an essential–resurrection; then, there are others like sex outside and before marriage and more hot-button topics. I think when we can be good, conversational Christians, people full of the grace and truth that characterized Christ, we’ll show the world that we’re not as bizarre and mean as we’ve sometimes painted ourselves to the world.

        • Not you! But Christians in-general sometimes. We come across as close-minded and attacking. We’ve painted the portrait of an angry God to the world and us, his children, as mad and defending him. That shouldn’t be. Paul, Peter, Jude…tell us to gently and patiently teach and persuade outsiders. We should not be stranded of thoughtful discussion about Christ. And that’s another point: this isn’t just about fighting sin and evil; it’s about showing people a loving God who has come to rescue us.

        • That’s it brother.

          It’s about showing people a loving God that came to rescue us.

          2000 years and we are still playing the role of the Pharisees…

  2. “How will one relate well with people in an increasingly pluralistic society?” Amen, Mike. I think one of the problems is that Christians are taught what to think rather than how to think. So, we get locked into a particular dogma out of fear. But God’s love empowers us with the freedom to engage in all points of view without intimidation or fear. Paul demonstrates this in Acts 17. He quotes their pagan poets to relate to talk to them about God. Great post!

    • That’s so rich, Mel…taught what to think rather than how to think. Your comment brings up so much. I just finished reading all of Paul and I was intrigued at how he commands his leaders and the churches to gently and patiently instruct non-believers. Jude offers the same advice. Thanks for a thoughtful comment, Mel!

  3. I know it’s late, so that means I’m brain dead, but I think I get the idea. Essentially, don’t marry yourself to a particular belief or stance? Not that you are going to become Buddhist, but there are many points in Christianity that have much disagreement. I find myself digging into certain points. That is when one must defer to the Bible for counsel.

    • I say when it comes to our core beliefs, particularly as Christians, they are foundational; but Christianity itself is historically conditioned and application may need to change–but that doesn’t alter the principle.

      Then, on other topics, there are always other ways of looking at something. Don’t be rigid…inflexible. You only imprison yourself.

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