Taking another look

Published 3:11 pm Saturday, December 8, 2018

by Nathan Decker

“Unfortunately the world wants us all to look a certain way.” Mr. Feeny told his class in an episode of “Boy Meets World.” This is true about more than what we wear. Whether it is politics or advertisements — everyone wants you to look a certain way, to point the direction of your perspective, and to view the world through their particular lens. This, my friends, is the slavery of the modern age.

When we see the world through eyes tinted by tribalism, we solely find our own opinions being reinforced. Right, wrong, misinformed or uninformed, our heads are being placed in iron masks that only allow us to see reflections of our own assumptions. When did we stop thinking as individuals?  When did we collectively allow ourselves to be chained to labels, political perspectives and mob rule?

I once had a conversation with a man who told me, “I’m not like regular Christians. I’m an evangelical, born-again Christian.” I asked him what was the difference. He told me simply, “They’re closed-minded fakes who think they have all the answers. I’m not like them.” Woe unto us who are blind in our certainty. We are eternally cursed when our definition of ourselves is simply, “We’re not them, we’re better than them.” Mr. Feeny once told his class, “Sometimes the right answer is the honest ‘I don’t know.”

Our faith in Christ is never meant to imprison us into a rigid dogma, nor is it to create ‘blessed assurance’ that we are right and everyone else is wrong. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news.”

The word ‘repent’ in our culture has come to mean avoiding sinful behavior or to make our lives fit a code of ethics we believe as doing the right thing. The Greek word metanoia would be better translated as “Change the way you view the world.” This means not just changing our behavior, but changing our vision.

Instead of seeing the world through our limited perspective, see the world through Jesus’ eyes.  In Christ we are free from the chains of limited perspective. Where we like to draw lines and boxes, Christ erases those self-imposed limitations.

Faiths offers a worldview or a way of seeing the world. In Christian faith, Jesus tells us to look not to the broad path of easy answers, left and right, black and white. Instead we are called to see and take the narrow path of disciplined discernment, individual thought, and growing our faith through the valley of the shadow of doubt. The church gets into trouble when we marry the Gospel to cultural morals, contextual expectations, and fleeting social movements. All have an expiration date.

What makes our faith timeless is the constant asking, seeking, and knocking for new insights and directions on how to reflect God’s love in this world. Recently, our church began a Bible Study at Fred’s on Wednesdays at 7 a.m. As a group we come with a bunch of perspectives. We don’t agree on a lot. But we do sit down, pray, and have a civil discussion. I doubt anyone’s opinion is changed, but in the sharing something special happens — community. We don’t leave frustrated or angry, but fulfilled and fed because we have helped each other break free from shackles of seeing only what we have seen.  Next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone with whom you always disagree, try to see things from their perspective. Take another look … after all, it’s what Jesus would do.

“To shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

– Zechariah speaking in Luke 1:79

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.