Hear to Understand


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 67; 150, Joshua 24:1-15, Acts 28:23-31, Mark 2:23-28

We all like to think we are open-minded – that our beliefs and attitudes are the result of well-informed reasoning and thoughtful consideration. Unfortunately there are at least a dozen types of cognitive bias to which we are prone, and another three dozen types of logical fallacy which our biases urge us to ignore. Since human beings are largely irrational creatures, being an expert in bias and logic is no guarantee of solid reasoning; actually the smarter we are, the more easily we can justify our own biases by manipulating those very laws of logic.

When Paul went to Rome, many Jewish leaders there were willing to hear him out regarding the teachings of Jesus. He talked with them an entire day, into the evening, and when he was finished some believed and some did not. For those who did not, he shared these words from the Holy Spirit:

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

These leaders were not evil, or – like the ones in Jerusalem who had driven him to seek sanctuary in Rome – even hostile. They simply felt no compelling reason to change their minds. What was the difference between those who believed Paul and those who didn’t? One possibility: they couldn’t imagine being wrong about the faith they had been taught and known all their lives.

Flash forward two thousand years, and people are basically the same. We believe God is moving among us, but in ways tradition has taught us to expect. When the Holy Spirit inspires prophets to declare Christians must grow to be more inclusive and just … some people believe and some do not. Few people today justify racial, gender, or ethnic discrimination on religious grounds, but once it was more common than not. Forces seeking justice and inclusion endure, and those that focus on condemnation and exclusion are judged unfavorably by history. When we consider such divisions in the church today, we must prayerfully consider whether we are biased toward merely hearing and seeing, or whether we are truly open to understanding and perceiving.

Comfort: The Spirit is still moving us toward justice.

Challenge: Follow the links in the first paragraph of today’s post – they may just teach you to be a better thinker.

Prayer: Lord of Truth and Light, teach me to be humble and bold enough to hear your word anew, even when I think I already understand it. Amen.

Discussion: When is the last time you changed you mind about something important to you? What prompted the change?

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