I want to illustrate an important matter first with analogy to fishing and hunting. I could also use football (soccer) as well -but here goes…
If you can’t hit what you’re aiming at get closer. If the lure or bait isn’t where it needs to be in order to catch that fish, get closer so you can cast closer (be it with cane pole, fly rod, spinning or casting reel and rod) for greater precision.
Listening and actually hearing the voice of God isn’t impossible but sometimes we must get closer. Prayer includes confession of sin, not only talking but listening, reading and actual study of His Words: “HEAR Oh Israel” said Jesus.
As the higher frequencies in my ears have taken a beating over a lifetime of shooting and of course countless concerts and now some 37 full length recordings, etc., etc., I find even with hearing aids I often need to get closer to someone (or closer to my amp or the p.a. system) to hear what I need to hear. Clarity comes from closeness.
The very same is true with eyesight, glasses or none. Move closer to truly see.
How many people who proclaim great faith are afraid of… plenty of people who need Jesus? How many people are so afraid they must pack weapons and/or maintain a stance of TOUGH to feel safer, always on the defensive, sometimes to the point of being offensive? Fear (reverence, respect) GOD. Loving your neighbor regardless is the issue here.
See, when I begin to get interested, then actually care for a person or group of people I study them. I ask questions. I dig through the web, read through the commentary of people who knew/know them. I especially want to hear their own words about themselves because nobody represents their deepest concerns like the person or people group themselves if and when you can find their writing or listen to or watch and listen to videos on their life, goals, hurts, dreams and issues of conscience.
It’s of course best to meet them and actually spend time in their presence. That’s a best practice for actually learning.
That means I must intentionally move in THEIR direction.
I’m not saying we should all be fools, but then some of us are when we run to power instead of love, dish out anger and meanness, suspicious of everyone we don’t naturally like or feel safe around. Discernment is one thing, harsh and snap judgment is another. Jesus commands us to love -even our enemies. While there are certainly times distance is warranted, often it’s about our own fear and judgment, not God’s call to engage and love that we’re operating out of.
When I get to know people better I may fully disagree with them, even think elements of their beliefs and behaviors are horrible, self-defeating, even self (and others) destructive… but knowing someone takes you deeper than merely knowing about them.
Plenty of us give personal, deep study little effort. Prejudiced, we literally pre-judge. The quick, lazy of non-educated r us. We only listen to those who already agree with our own assessment of things and of people.
Sometimes we don’t come to people or issues with any sense of genuine love, concern or empathy for how someone “got so messed up” -and we brought our previous perspective along with us. We figure we already know enough that studying for greater depth of understanding isn’t on our agenda.
Are they guilty and troubled and dangerous? Perhaps.
So are we as we make judgments without getting closer.
This is too common to even debate isn’t it? If “they” had gotten to know you they’d not have thought so poorly of you, right? At least possibly so, correct?
The closer I get to Jesus, the more I move in HIS direction and truly study Him via His own words, the more I meet (and over the years I’ve met a LOT of) genuine disciples of His, the longer I have lived in close, intentional community most of my life with well over a hundred people the more I realize the benefits and importance of a pure, right and gracious education that cannot come by distance, quick and surface judgment, sound bites or mere headlines.
That guy on the street corner… how did he get there? It’s easy to say “SIN!” (well we’re all sinners, so…?!) but is he panhandling due to mental illness, a record from jail/prison, nobody will hire him, he has issues finding the social services, or they’ve simply cut him out to save a buck… perhaps he was abused for years as a juvenile, a local gang seemed the only way to survive… on it goes.
You can keep moving away from people you don’t like. Out of fear or anger you can reject, ignore, shut people out -all the while talking about faith. Wow. Think about that for a moment please.
Well… maybe it’s wise to not get too close, right?
Including Jesus with His hand-picked disciples, Paul with the flaky Corinthian church, God nearly continually with Israel in the Old Testament or most of the churches in the Book of Revelation… any of us can choose to move away -but that’s not what He did or does. There’s always that other option:
It will change you if you do.
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn