It's news I'm most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God's powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God's way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: "The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives."
But God's angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn't treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
So God said, in effect, "If that's what you want, that's what you get." It wasn't long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
Have you had this kind of conversation in recent months: “The world seems to be getting worse! What in the heck is going on? What is wrong with people?”
Yeah, me too.
I think some form of this conversation is happening in a lot of homes and backyards these days. It seems that everywhere we look people seem to have lost their minds.
The line this morning from Romans 1:22 that hit me between the eyes was, “They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.”
If that isn’t a sentence for our time, I don’t know what is.
Read it again: They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.”
Everyone believes themselves an expert these days. Which, if you think about it, makes sense since we carry all of human knowledge in our pocket and can access it with a quick query. As I scan my social media feeds it turns out that many, if not most, of my friends are experts in constitutional law, political science, sociology, psychology, theology, epidemiology, climatology, and just about any other “-ology” I can come up with. Except math, well, except for that one person.
We live in these uncertain times and so everyone feels the need to pretend to know it all. We act as though we have all the answers. Yet, the reality is that we don’t. But, when we feel out of control and that we can’t get a handle on life we grasp for anything we think will steady us. In our day, that means we act as though we are experts on everything.
In the midst of our pretending we are betraying the reality that we are illiterate regarding life.
The single clearest way I see this is that people hide and isolate from one another. When it gets hard, they withdraw. Sure, folks talk a good game about “community” and “love you,” but the reality is that those things are often rooted in convenience. For some reason our natural inclination during the hard times is to hide away and isolate. All this does is deepen the pit that we find ourselves in.
Why do we do this?
I think it’s because we have lost the bigger picture. We are missing the forest for the trees. In psychology there is a term, “perseverate,” which means, “repeat or prolong an action, thought, or utterance after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased.” When we lose the bigger picture we perseverate on the one tree. Usually it is some wound or stress or worry and because we can’t pull back and see the bigger picture we perseverate. This leads us into isolation, loneliness, and disconnection. (Please hear me, for some this is a chronic symptom due to very real trauma and/or mental health issues. If you feel like this is true for you or a loved one please reach out to me and I can help connect you to a medical professional.)
So, we live in this culture of fake experts and isolated heartbroken people. Of course we are seeing things fall apart.
How do we step back and see the bigger picture? How do we acknowledge the fact that we are not experts? How do we move back into community and connection?
We have to embrace some humility. This isn’t belly button looking, “oh woe is me,” garbage. No, humility is having a right understanding of ourselves before God. This means that we acknowledge that we (and everyone else) were created in the image of God. This means that in each of us there is something beautiful and wonderful to be embraced. It also means that we are not God. We don’t know everything and we don’t control everything. As a result we recognize our need for one another. It is the wholeness of humanity that more fully reflects the image of God.
As I intentionally try to grab hold of this mindset, then I find myself pulled back from my self-centeredness and isolation. For me, this means remembering again and again that there is a God who cares for me through the people he has lovingly placed in my life. As I do, I find I’m more curious and willing to say, “I don’t know…can you help?” I find that I cease striving to be an expert but I’m willing to be a novice.
How about you? How do you find your way back to the bigger picture?