Summer solstice, 2021
In our corner of the northern hemisphere, this week's solstice has brought amazingly long days—with first light at 3:26 am and last light at 11:06 pm. Everyone's talking about the weather and the beauty of nature. Canines, on the other hand, are less likely to turn their gaze upward in wonder.
Our dog is of a different spirit. A few days ago I was walking Darcy in the park, when a plane soared overhead. She went ballistic, springing up on hind legs—as if expecting to catch the Qatar Airways jet with her mouth and paws! My friends and I couldn't stop laughing.
Ever since puppyhood Darcy has noticed objects in the sky, even at great altitudes. But nothing gets her as riled up as thunder. Of course we can't observe what's going on in that massive, inquisitive head of hers, but I doubt she has special insight into the electrodynamics of thunder and lightning. After all, how much do even we understand the workings of nature? And if this is so, how much less can we fathom the mind of the Lord? The words of the prophet Isaiah are apropos:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Or consider the apostle Paul's exclamation:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34)
While we, unlike dogs, bear God's image and are trusted participants in his kingdom work, there is still a stupendous intellectual and moral gulf between Him and us. Surely this fact calls for a response of humility on our part.
We are not God. We are not Jesus. We aren't inspired apostles. Having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16) doesn’t mean being "right" on everything, but striving for the attitude and wisdom of Jesus. Certainly there are many black-and-white truths in God's Word (like the Lordship of Christ and the church as his body), while others are less clear (the proper age for baptism, or how often the church should meet). Why is it that so many emphasise what Scripture barely touches on (like organised evangelism, or fundraisers), while under-emphasising what is repeatedly highlighted (like rejecting the world's values and seeking the character of Christ)? Historically speaking, we who are followers of our Lord are not so good at allowing for differences of opinion. We find ways to bind ours on others. If we determined to stress only what the Lord stressed, many of our disagreements would vanish overnight.
Is anyone who teaches differently than me really a "false teacher"? In Scripture the labels of false teacher and false prophet seem to be reserved for those who make holiness optional, or undermine the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ (Lam 2:11; 2 Pet 2:1-3). Not for those who honestly disagree. We hear a good deal about personal humility. What about doctrinalhumility?
Wrong thinking here is a major threat to Christian unity. It's too easy for those who need to be right to overpower (bully) those who think differently. (It isn't easy for me to write these words. I am one of those people who by nature values certainty, information, strategy, and control.) Unity isn't connection because we agree (although it may be so). Unity is connection even when we don't. Wouldn't the world sit up and notice if believers took the Lord's prayer in John 17 seriously?
Moreover, self-promotion (we alone have the inside track on God's will) is out of step with the spirit of Christ (Gal 5:22-23; 3 John 9; Matt 11:28-30). It is inappropriate to look down on fellow servants of Christ just because their views don't perfectly align with our own (Rom 14:4). After all, even we don't always agree with ourselves—we all change our minds from time to time. (If not, are we learning?)
Unity doesn't mean total alignment (uniformity), but love, respect, and connection. In most cities, our local congregation isn't the only game in town ("one church, one city" thinking). That exclusive, elitist attitude—as though it were in our power to tame the heavens, or put God in a box!—is no more educated than Darcy's thinking during her vertical lurches skywards. Our gaze may be turned upwards, and our most eloquent and emphatic proclamations may persuade some, but how much do we really comprehend? Who do we think we are?
We're barking at the thunder.