The older I get the more I have realised that there is not much “pure” in life that we come across. There are mixed motives, hidden intentions, mixed messages and half truths at every turn. I used to take the approach of throwing out information that I was suspicious of very quickly. I used to call it discerning, especially when related to my faith. What I have come to realise is that maturity demands that we can hear any message or messenger and eat the meat, spit out the bones.
We all take different approaches to the information we receive. When we are younger we tend to just accept whatever our teachers say. Increasingly we are trying to teach children to employ critical thinking. I actually think teaching people how to think for themselves is much more important than teaching people what to think! I have noticed however that some people see critical thinking as an excuse to be cynical or suspicious of everything. This can lead to us discarding information as soon as we start to disagree. I suggest that this is actually very limiting. When it comes to faith as soon as we find something we do not trust we tend to throw the baby out with the bath water. There is a great fear of being decieved.
It takes great skill in being able to listen to a message and wade through it, with our brains engaged, discovering the parts we agree with, the parts that challenge us and the parts that we disagree with. This approach to learning can help us grow dramatically. When we apply this to areas where we hold strong beliefs however this can be challenging. When it comes to the bible, God, faith and doctrine our emotions can be heightened. We are warned of deception and somehow we fear we will become deceived by listening to someone we don’t agree with. As if they will suck us in and we will have no control. I think there are important questions that need asked. Can we listen to messages that we do not fully agree with? Can we keep our brains switched on and receive value from a preacher that has different values to us? God has a habit of hiding nuggets of vital truth in a package that makes us uncomfortable. Overcoming offence to receive from God is a big deal. What if the preacher is covered in tatoos? What if they have had major moral failures in their life?
In some Christian circles outward appearance and past failure means a person gets completely discounted. In the case of some sort of major ministry failure it is as if the person had something incredibly valuable to share with the church until they failed. Immediately we feel like God must really struggle to communicate to us through that person now. What they told us previously must have been false because they failed. This seems like a very strange view of God and an even stranger view of man. There is life and truth all around us if we will just take the time to look for it in the unexpected places. When we look back to church revival history there have been so many incredible men and women of the faith who have done incredible things many of us have only dreamt of. If you study history it won’t take long to discover the faults of these men and women. They did not all finish well and many had destructive habits and moral failures throughout their ministry. The temptation is to disregard all that they did and the revelation they carried. Yet there is a wealth of knowledge there and many testimonies that will launch the generations to come into greatness if we will just humble ourselves to learn from these imperfect heroes. The bible is full of them.
There are no perfect people. There is no pure message. There is no man or women with perfect theology. We are all on the journey of discovery. Safety is not found in rejecting different ideas but in navigating through a wealth of information with the Holy Spirit. It is His job to guide us into all truth and we really can trust him to help us.
Fear tells us to throw out the entire meal as soon as we spot something suspicious. The result is we do not get any of the sustenance or enjoyment. Maturity on the other hand means we learn to eat the meat, spit out the bones.