Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hearing only what we want

My wife and I were stirring from sleep this morning, and our minds were still in a fog. I said something to her that spurred her to smile at me and say, "Good." But when she said that, I was taken aback. For what she thought I had said was, "How are you doing?" What I really said was, "I have to get going." I looked at her in mock astonishment and said, "You mean it's good that I have to get going?" It was then that she laughed and told me what she thought I had said.

People misunderstand each other all the time. I have messed up because I thought I was supposed to do one thing when it was really something else. Perhaps I wasn't close enough to the speaker to hear clearly. Or perhaps my mind was otherwise occupied and I wasn't paying attention like I should have. Or perhaps I was tired and unable to process what was said.

But what if my motive was to hear only what I wanted to hear. I was a big fan of the humor magazine Mad as a youth. They had this one column where they would show how a negative review of a movie or book could be twisted to appear positive. For example, if the review actually said, "The movie was an excellent example of how to make your viewers squirm in their seats with a desire to flee," the review could be read as, "The movie was ... excellent."

Isn't this true of so much of what we see in today? People are more focused on thinking how to progress their agenda than on listening to make sure they know where the other side is coming from. Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (English Standard Version).

If a politician says anything, it can and will be twisted to suit the pre-conceived beliefs of his supporters or critics. They'll take it out of context, add words, subtract words...whatever it takes to make him look like a hero, a liar, a buffoon, a good-hearted man.

Jesus's words prove Him to be of exemplary character, a great teacher, and, yes, God. For those who don't want to believe that Jesus is God, they'll take His words out of context, or they'll say that those parts of the Bible have been mistranslated...whatever it takes to make him look like anyone else but the One to whom they must be accountable.

If I chose to hear about Jesus only as a good man and good teacher, I'd still be accountable to Him as God. On the same note, I am responsible to make sure I listen to and understand what my wife says, or my church leaders, or my political leaders. May each of us be wise and brave enough to realize that we don't need to doctor the truth; it stands on its own. And if it's not truth, or if it is truth but it's offensive to God, then no amount of doctoring will make it pleasing in God's sight.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


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