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.