I respect people who enlighten and broaden my thinking on a given subject. I admire people who are ahead of me or at a different stage than I am and are willing to take the risk to challenge my current constructs and paradigms. I don’t always totally agree or buy what they say lock, stock and barrel, but retrospectively I usually discover that I have been taken to new levels of thinking and understanding.
One of the reasons I admire and respect such people is that I have learned those who offer broader and bigger frames and perspectives do so at great personal risk. Whatever the subject, be it religion, politics, or science, if you are one level above the crowd you will be criticized. If you are two levels ahead of most people you will be ostracized. And, if you are unfortunate enough to be three or more levels beyond the masses you will be crucified. That is why, almost without exception, the Jewish Prophets were killed. It why Jesus was killed. It is why Gandhi and Martin Luther King were killed. Anyone who is talking in a broader frame, like Jesus did when talking about the Kingdom of God, is not understandable to people who are still living at levels of fundamentalism, legalism, fear and guilt. It appears they are taking away all the necessary and known boundary markers. And most people are living totally within safe and certain boundary markers where they feel completely safe.
What Does This Tell Us?
One thing you can count on, your present notion of God is never it. Your present experience is never enough to explain everything about God. Augustine said, “if you can comprehend it, then it is not God.” Meister Eckhart expressed it by saying, “I pray God to rid me of my notion of God.” In other words, God rid me of my current limited understanding of You.
The reality is that all you know is your current stage of development, so you speak about it with great certainty, authority and dogmatic conclusions because that is all you know. What this tells us is that all you can be certain of is what you have up to now experienced, and that not for a moment should you ever assume that you have arrived, get it, or know it all. You have to constantly know that you don’t know. Can you imagine how our politics and churches would change if we had that kind of humility inside our dialogue? Regretfully, there are people filled with certitudes on every side of virtually every question, making civil and constructive dialogue almost impossible. And, this results in the devil being exposed on every side of the question. All because there is no humility or openness.
So, What Do We Do?
No preacher wants to receive threatening emails on Monday morning, to be labeled a heretic, to receive hate calls, or lose their jobs. So, we dumb it down to the lowest common denominator, to a level that everyone can agree with. Our message then becomes indistinguishable from everyone else’s. There is little room for a leavening agent to make the dough rise in most of our churches. And, as Jesus experienced as He sent out leaven, when the dough is convinced it doesn’t need to rise, then the message is rejected, sometimes violently.
Therefore, a reality we must embrace is that the best any of us can do is understand someone a little bit ahead of you. Anyone two or more stages ahead are always going to look wrong, heretical, and even dangerous. So, what does this mean for those of us who want to share and live in bigger frames? In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 Jesus warns, “Do not give what is holy to dogs. Do not cast your pearls before swine. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” I believe one of the things Jesus is saying in this passage is that if you do cast your pearls of sacred insight before swine, they will turn on you, because they are not ready for it. For me this means that you have to carefully select where and who to have bigger frame conversations with. You must choose your words and language carefully. It means you share with people at a level they can understand. And, you hope and pray that your love, humility, and openness will move people a little farther along on their journey.
Posted on June 2, 2020