A shortcut to stupidity

Some of the most regrettable moments of my life resulted from making decisions based on incomplete information. When I assume I know more than I actually do, when I think I know what another is thinking, when I stop listening because I think I have understood the situation, the likelihood that I will say something stupid increases sharply. Why, oh why, is it so difficult to say, “Help me to understand”? 

Right now, our world needs a lot more good listeners, people who will honestly say, “tell me more.” Mostly we are shouting at each other from entrenched positions, incapable of understanding. We are convinced that OUR view is the RIGHT one. Fear drives us even deeper into our defensive response and the divide grows daily.

Christian, we can, we must, do better; for God’s sake. Remember this, listening to another is not the same as agreeing with another.  Many are being cut off, their words not even allowed to be heard, as if the act of saying words out loud turns them into absolute truth.  A real dialogue, an exchange of ideas, an openness to conversation lays a foundation of understanding. This is a real issue for those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus. We need to lead the way to deep conversations, inviting others to talk, with the hope that it will open up a channel of real communication. If we hope to be able to share our love of Jesus, to invite others to know Him, we will put away our megaphones and sit down at the table.

Ever made the leap to a conclusion so certain that you just knew the obvious?  What actually is said,  what a person intended to say, and what we think we heard,  are frequently unrelated tales.   Our state of mind influences the information taken in by our senses, doesn’t it?   If we are fatigued, discouraged, or angry – a word of criticism can sound like an awful condemnation. When we have already set our agenda going into a conversation, we will too quickly assume that everybody thinks the same thing.  Their questions will feel like resistance and, failing true dialogue, the seeds of conflict are planted!

God’s wisdom instructs us. “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:18-20, NIV)  (Re-read those lines, especially the last sentence.)

It may be that our fundamental worldview is flawed so that we come to the wrong conclusion, misjudge another, or even blame God!  Jesus disciples had been trained by their religious leaders, wrongly, to think that if someone was suffering, there was a direct line of cause and effect. One day, when they saw a blind man, they judged. “Who sinned?” they asked. The only reason a person could be blind, they assumed, was because of somebody’s failure. The truth was very different, as they learned from the Master. ” As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered.  “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”   (John 9:1-5, NLT)  Imagine their shock when they tried to accept that God has allowed the man to be blind for His own purposes. It just did not fit with their understanding of the world.

Are you and I creating obstacles to real communication and discovery of God’s will with our assumption that what we ‘know’ is flawless or complete? May God give us grace to approach difficult situations, threatening ideas with these kinds of questions: “Why did you do that?”  “What did you mean?”  “How do you feel?”  These are simple questions, left unasked and therefore,  unanswered, too often. Listening is love! Peter says, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.” (1 Peter 4:8, The Message) ” Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. “ (1 Peter 4:12-13, The Message)

In this critical time in our land the Devil is using the age-old strategy of ‘divide and conquer.’  Christian, let’s fall to our knees and pour out our fears to the Lord. Let’s ask Him to secure us – heart and mind – in His great love. Then, let’s go out to love and listen.  We need not abandon all of our convictions, go soft in the head about wisdom, or affirm every idea that we hear. But WE MUST show the love of Jesus and I am fairly certain that does not start with snarling at those who threaten us or posting a rant on our Facebook timeline.

I am inspired by Jesus’ radical story of acceptance repeated for us in Luke 15. A young man broke his father’s heart, ran off to waste his life, and came to the conclusion he was worthless, beyond redemption. He came up with a plan to go home, but not as a son. “I’ll just work on the farm so I have enough to eat.”  Conventional wisdom was and is “He made his bed now he’ll have to lie in it.” But the heart of God is revealed in the response of the father.

Our word from the Word for today are these radical words of love. “So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

Ready for it? Here it is … But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:20-24, NIV) Son, you are beloved, forgiven, restored.  Isn’t that a scandalous love?

Oh Father, give me Your heart.
Teach me how to love as You love,
To reach past my own sense of right and just
To find forgiveness, reconciliation, and new life. Amen

_____________

When God Ran

Almighty God the great I Am
Immovable Rock omnipotent
Powerful awesome Lord
Victorious Warrior
Commanding King of kings mighty Conqueror
And the only time
The only time I ever saw Him run
(Was) when He ran to me

Took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest
Said My son’s come home again
Lifted my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice
He said son do you know
I still love you

He caught me by surprise
(He brought me to my knees)
When God ran
After I left home I knew I’d broken His heart
I wondered then if things
Would ever be the same but one night
I remembered His love for me
And down that dusty road ahead I could see

It’s the only time
The only time I ever saw Him run
I saw Him run to me
And then I ran to Him

I was so ashamed all alone and far away
But now I know He’s been waiting for this day
(And then) He ran to me
Took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest
Said My son’s come home again
Lifted my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice
(I felt His love call me again)

He said son He said son
My son do you know I still love you
He ran to me
When God ran

Benny Hester | John Parenti © 1985 Curb Word Music (Admin. by WC Music Corp.)

CCLI License # 810055

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