Do any of us think we are on the wrong side of a disagreement?
Isn’t it ironic that, in times of conflict, we all think we have right on our
side? It doesn’t matter if the disagreement is marital, political, or international. Together with our allies, we all are convinced that our side holds the moral high ground.
These inclinations are rooted deeply in all of us. For thousands of years, our Father in heaven has been quietly and patiently reminding us that “every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).
If, together, we are ready for a second look, let’s see if we can find renewed perspective by remembering that:
A high view of God rises above the foothills of morality. The religious leaders who hated Jesus for being a friend of sinners weren’t all wrong. In many ways they were trying to take the high road. By resisting the pluralistic influence of Roman and Greek culture, they were defending a high view of God, moral law, and national honor. But they were fighting from the foothills of Sinai when the battle had moved to the way of the cross. They had missed the prophet Isaiah’s vision of a high and holy God who has a heart for bruised and broken people (Isaiah 1:16-18; 6:1-5; 57:15). And so they misunderstood Jesus.
The spiritual leaders of Israel knew that God honored Job for being an advocate for weak and defenseless people (Job 29). Yet too many of them stripped widows of their wealth (Matthew 23:14). They were familiar with the prophet Jonah, who was sent by God to the morally depraved people of Nineveh. Yet some of them self-righteously condemned lost people (Luke 18:10-12). They saw the miracle that confirmed Jesus’ words when He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Yet they added Jesus to the list of those they would rather see condemned by law than be saved by grace (Mark 3:1-6).
A high view of the Bible rises above the foothills of understanding. Those who read and study the Bible for timeless truths are on the right track. Insight and understanding are essential for those who want to take the high road in life. Even during the days of Solomon’s spiritual wandering and disillusionment he could write, “Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness. The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:13-14).
But it’s just as important to discover that to really honor the knowledge of the Bible we need to rise above the foothills of understanding to bow in the face of mysteries understood only by God.
Knowing everything the Bible says about prayer would be wonderful. But such knowledge could not tell us how God hears, when He will answer, or if He will give us our request or something better. Knowing everything the Old and New Testaments tell us about the love of God could be life-changing. But we still wouldn’t be able to unlock the mystery of how He is going to show His care for us from one moment to the next. The most pagan and devout among us agree, “God works in mysterious ways” that invite our trust.
The more we learn about the Bible, the more we also will discover that God speaks in mysterious pairings of ideas. He is one God in three persons; He is with us, yet beyond us; He is committed to justice, yet full of mercy; He is in control of history, yet gives us freedom of choice; He discloses Himself through self-revelation, yet shrouds Himself in secrecy (Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Timothy 3:16). He asks us not only to trust Him for what He has made known, but also for the view that is His alone.
Such mystery does not devalue understanding. Rather it is part of our learning and growing that also teaches us how to respect and act on what God has revealed so that we can trust Him for what He alone understands.
A high view of truth rises above the foothills of honesty. Wisdom reminds us that we can be right in what we say, yet be wrong in the way we say it.
When the Bible asks us to live and speak the truth, it is not just asking us to be honest and factual. From Genesis to Revelation, we are asked for attitudes that are as true to God as the facts He has revealed.
Interestingly, when the Jewish Scriptures speak of truth, they are often referring to what we would call integrity of heart, faithfulness, and reliability of character.
Walking in the knowledge of God, therefore, requires not only the active engagement of our minds but also the warm embrace of our hearts.
If we don’t keep both in view, a generous heart can make error look like truth, just as arrogance can make truth look like error. Who can measure the confusion that occurs when truth is spoken with condemnation and self-righteousness, while lies are told with patience and love? Try to imagine a spirit world where angels speak with arrogance and demons speak with devotion to their enemies.
Truth spoken without love is devastatingly harmful. Love expressed without truth is tragically misleading.
Maybe this is one reason the apostle Paul wrote, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Father in heaven, please help us today to tell the difference between the foothills we are defending and the mountain peaks from which You are calling us. –Mart De Haan