These days trouble me. I expect they trouble many of you as well.
24 hour news and social media bombard us. Friend and foe shout to be heard across the noise of the internet. Everyone has an opinion about everything under the sun.
Opinions are fine. I’m a fan.
Lines Drawn in the Sand
But in this day and age, it seems nobody recognizes their own opinions as just that: opinions.
- Instead, everyone is certain.
- We draw lines in the sand. We make bold assertions.
- “I am 100% right, which of course makes you 100% wrong.”
The sin of certainty is alive and well in our world.
In the world of autism and social skills training, we call that black and white thinking. It’s something we learn to help our kids with, because reality is never so clearly delineated.
And yet, I see this exact black and white thinking happening in our world. Nuance disappears. Gray matters dissolve. We spiral downward into “us vs. them” thinking, spurred on by both our political and spiritual leaders. There is no room for discrepancy unless you want to be called a heretic, a flip-flopper, a bigot, or a hellbound disgrace.
Most recently, we’ve seen this game played out in the outcry against and/or in support of well known Christian authors and theologians.
Author Jen Hatmaker was raked across the coals by the conservative evangelical community and dumped by Lifeway publishing because of her support of gay marriage. Never mind all the good Jen has to say about Jesus and the gospel message. Never mind her heart for the downtrodden and the marginalized. Never mind her own commitment to inclusion in her ministry.
Meanwhile, the LGBTQ community praised Mommy blogger and author Glennon Melton for “following her heart” and divorcing her husband to marry another woman. Never mind the pain and confusion following in her wake. Never mind how the whole affair seemed to coincide with fame and fortune and therefore ended up looking suspiciously like an Oprah-ordained publicity stunt. Never mind that her version of “Christianity” seems to be more of a self-motivated “follow your bliss” take on religion than an actual surrender to Christ and His teachings.
Eugene Peterson was simultaneously lauded and threatened last week for responding yes when asked, “Would you perform a same-sex marriage?” One day later he retracted his statement, his books remained safe on Lifeway shelves, and the LGBTQ Christian community responded with vitriol. Never mind that he is an octogenarian with a lifetime of following Christ behind him. Never mind the beauty of the language he gave us in The Message. Never mind that he is a biblical scholar who is clearly questioning, grappling and evolving in his faith.
Where I Stand
Let me be clear about this: I am completely supportive of LGBTQ rights. I am a supporter of gay marriage. I will never be one to step forward and condemn my fellow Christians for their sexual orientation or relationships. If a gay couple asked me to play piano at their wedding, I would gladly and without hesitation do so.
But if you ask me what I believe the Bible says about homosexuality and gay marriage, I will respond with a definitive “I don’t know.”
And it’s not because I haven’t read the Bible.
On the contrary, I’ve spent my entire adult life studying it.
The reason I say “I don’t know” is because the more I read the Bible, and the more I grow in my faith, the more I realize I don’t understand.
I do agree with Jen Hatmaker’s original statement when she first expressed her support of gay marriage:
. . .my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.”
Maybe it’s time to admit we don’t know as much as we think we do.
The Sin of Certainty
I was taught in church all my life to be certain. Preachers delivered perfectly outlined truths with definitive answers. They encouraged note taking. They interpreted the scriptures for the congregants, based on their understanding of the Bible, their upbringing, their traditional (or non-traditional) values, and that was that.
The preacher said it so it had to be true.
I was a full-grown woman before I even started questioning what my preachers and pastors had to say.
And the more I read the Bible, the more I began to doubt what I’d always heard.
This might be hard for you to hear, no matter where you come down, but it’s truth nonetheless: there are questions we’ll never get answers to this side of eternity. We’re not meant to know it all.
God is God and we are not.
- How presumptious of us to be so certain.
- How arrogant of us to think we know it all.
- How prideful of us to believe we are so right that we never need question our own cemented beliefs, or allow our faith to evolve as we grow.
I just finished the book The Sin of Certainty by Pete Enns and it explores this topic in depth. I highly recommend it.
Because at nearly 50 years old, with over 30 years of Bible study under my belt, I am more and more uncertain about specific issues and interpretations of cherry-picked scriptures than I ever was in my youth.
I am, however, more certain than ever that God is love. God loves me. God loves you. God wants us to love and help each other. God wants us to include everybody. God showed us exactly how to do this through the person of Jesus Christ and through His life, death, and resurrection. And God helps us to to live in love today through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Most of the rest is up for grabs.
The Prayer Our World Needs Right Now
My husband and I started a support group for special needs parents at our former church several years ago. The group was short-lived because the church leadership was never on board, but in the beginning we were bright-eyed and hopeful. The verse we chose as our identifying motto was 2 Chronicles 20:12b.
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
I prayed those words often then and I still pray them today.
Unanswered questions abound, both in life and in the Bible. I often don’t know what to make of specific issues on any given day. My opinions and ideas are constantly evolving. I’ve traveled this journey long enough to know that I’ll “continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling” for the rest of my days. It’s all okay.
What matters is that I keep my eyes on the One who knows all, sees all, understands all. Only then do the things of earth grow strangely dim.
The constant bickering and bashing disheartens me. There are two extreme sides to every issue and anyone who hovers somewhere in the middle is in danger of being trampled to death.
All the more reason to keep our eyes on the One who made us, who knows our hearts, who leads us daily into better understanding and closer relationship with Himself and with His creation.
This is my prayer today: I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you.
It’s a prayer our world desperately needs.
P.S. If you’re grappling with all the black and white thinking out there right now as well, here are some resources that might be helpful. Oh, and just a reminder that the links are Amazon affiliate links, meaning if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!
The Sin of Certainty by Pete Enns
Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty by Gregory A. Boyd
Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans
God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines