Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12
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There is so much wrong with our public discourse these days, even among Christians…maybe especially among Christians. The arrogance, the tribalism, and the mere screaming across the cultural divide (as if adding a little outrage to my message will make it more convincing) is just sickening to me. Maybe it is to you as well.
I have no idea what mirrors looked like back when Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth. But I’m certain they weren’t as good then as they are now. I rather suspect that the image in the reflection was pretty poor, maybe like looking at your reflection on the back of a silver spoon. However their mirrors worked then, one thing is clear: Paul is telling us that our state of “knowing” spiritual things is pretty poor on this side of Heaven.
For me, this is a truth which keeps me humble, especially when I am discussing theology or scriptural interpretations or even more general matters of God. Whatever it is I think I know, however certain I think I am, I must hold even that certainty with a healthy dose of humility. And when I lose that humility, I lose my ability to influence those who might disagree with me. By that I mean that any hope of conveying that truth to anyone not already inclined to listen is lost.
I sometimes think that we in the evangelical church have convinced ourselves that our job is to persuade. We act as though the gospel, despite its inherent power, somehow needs our polished communication skills and persuasive abilities in order to carry the day. We act as though it is our responsibility to appear so certain in our beliefs that even the strongest atheist will fall to his knees and surrender to God as a result of our argumentative prowess. So, like a courtroom lawyer, we twist words, humiliate our “opponent” and add a full scoop of outrage so that we can adequately “sell” our position.
In that instance, then, humility is seen as weakness. Humility does not win arguments, and it does not crush your opponent with unassailable logic. Humility in my understanding of God will never sweep anyone off their feet as a result of my presentation. So, as long as it is up to me to persuade people to follow Christ, I really cannot afford to sound anything other than absolutely certain in my position. There is no room for humility, or even gentleness, for that matter.
But the irony is, the very source of all truth tells me that, for now, I see only as through a poor reflection in a very old mirror. So when I “preach” at people with all that outrage, certainty and unswerving pride, not only do I come across to them as arrogant, but I betray my own “truth” by acting as though I see perfectly clearly, thank you very much.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying that nothing is knowable, that we cannot be truly certain of anything at all. Objective truth exists, and it is quite knowable. I am just saying that, even in our certainty, there must be humility…there must be a level of lowliness as opposed to a haughtiness and a need to persuade.
Believe me when I say this…the gospel does not need my persuasive abilities or your polished presentation. It never has. But what WILL make a difference is a people so filled with God’s Spirit that their humility is astounding to everyone around them. That humility, coupled with the truth of the gospel, will change the public discourse. In fact, it will change the world.