I made the mistake yesterday of “getting into it” with someone in the comments section of a blog. I felt indignant that my ideas were being both misunderstood and belittled. By the end of the exchange, I had sinned on several fronts. Not only did I share poorly chosen words, but my spirit was flustered, and my conscience was stained. Overall, a bad exchange.
In my angst, I began doing some reading. I found an interesting article about the theory of motivated reasoning. In the article, the author breaks down reasons why, even when given considerable evidence, we can be very slow to change our minds because of our pre-existing beliefs. “All we can currently bank on,” says the author, “is the fact that we all have blinders in some situations. The question then becomes: What can be done to counteract human nature itself? Given the power of our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction.”
Minds don’t change easily. Which leads us to today’s text from 1 Peter, and Martin Luther’s commentary thereof.
“Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:14-16).
What do you think, Martin Luther? “The method by which [for the sophists] it must be shown that the faith is a right one, must agree with reason and come from the brain. But our faith is above all reason, and it alone is the power of God. Therefore, if people will not believe, then be silent; for you are not responsible for compelling them to hold the Scriptures as the Word or Book of God. It is enough that you give your reason from the Scriptures. But if they take exceptions … when you hear people of this stamp, who are so blind and obtuse as to deny or doubt that this is God’s Word, then be silent, speak nor more with them, and let them go.”
If you are an unbeliever reading this blog, you probably feel terribly patronized by Luther right now – after all, we’re right, and you’re obtuse. I apologize for that rhetoric – sort of. But the Biblical truth states that … well, we are right (not because we’re brilliant, but because God by His grace has revealed truth to our hearts and minds), and you’re … well, just unable to see it. And we can’t make you able to see it. Only God can do that.
A holiday analogy for you. Say you had a blind friend. No, wait, let’s expand that – you live in a colony of people who are all blind. But you have undergone a surgery – one that has been available to everyone in your town. But most people don’t think that it’s really available, or that it really works. But you believed. And now, you can see.
Now, suppose you are taking a group of blind friends for a walk through your neighborhood. You were just like them a few days ago, but now you can see the Christmas lights! So you enthusiastically tell them what “light” is, and then tell them about “colors”, and describe all the “beautiful” homes to them. And, you remind them that they could be enjoying these sights, too.
How do they respond? They say there’s no such thing as the surgery, or light, or colors. You must be making it up. You’re either self-deluded, or insane. The fact that they can’t see them doesn’t mean that you don’t. But, clearly, no amount of arguing is going to change their minds. The only way they will change is if they have the surgery done.
Some will believe in the surgery because of your testimony. Some simply won’t believe, and will remain blind. As the scriptures say, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
I’m so thankful that I can see the lights. I do want others to see the lights. It seems, though, that the more I talk about the lights with some, the more hostile they become. It seems to make them angry, for some reason.
But I can’t be hostile back! Gentleness. Respect. Gracious silence. And mercy and compassion for them in their blindness. I will pray that their hearts will be moved – so they will truly long for and receive the vision that is freely given to those who believe. And, in the meantime, enjoy the lights, and be thankful!
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