(This is originally published in LakeRidge’s weekly Newsletter. The place where I am the Director of Spiritual Formation. It is abbreviated for the sake of the reader, but there was written before editing for the Newsletter. Published: Nov. 21, 2018)
Which should a Christian value more: understanding or being understood? This isn’t a trick question, but it is a pivotal issue for the Christian’s life while living in the world. Another way we can ask this is should a Christian be defensive or welcoming? I can ask my initial question in a variety of ways and scale it out to more than mere individuals. In fact, it is a question we should be asking our church. I digress, and you’re hoping I answer this puzzle. Any person centering their life in/because of/ through the person of Jesus Christ are people who display themselves to others through understanding, before ever being understood, because, in Jesus Christ, God sought for us to know that God understands our humanness.
I want to dial in on a section of Holy Scripture that symbolizes what I’ve indicated above. In Hebrews 2:10 and on, the writer considers the fitted-ness of Jesus Christ as our hope, model, and ultimately savior because he fully shares in our humanness. The point of this section of Scripture is “to bring” or better state lead human beings through a new kind of Exodus, which is reminiscent of language found within the book of Exodus where God chooses to lead people into salvation and freedom. The passage dives deep into thinking about the Incarnation, God, salvation, and human beings, yet the writer’s attitude isn’t to impress or confuse us about this great mystery of Jesus Christ. Instead, the author stresses that God values individual human beings to such a degree that God forwent other possibilities to ensure humanity’s salvation. God did such a foolish and risky thing in Jesus Christ so that we, who experience a messy, chaotic, at times horrendous, and beautiful life, might be understood by someone so, so Other than we could ever try to imagine.
Isn’t that good news, not just so-so or moderately entertaining news? God went to such great lengths to seek understanding about your life and my life that this God of understanding captivates, bewilders, and, maybe, frustrates a mind’s eye. So, then, as someone committed to this faith in Jesus Christ, shouldn’t it be common that we are a community that takes on this similar disposition of God? Are the people that God has redeemed in Jesus Christ who gather at local churches the kind of peculiar people that go to great lengths to understand others before ever being understood? Because, it seems to me, that God is a God who understands you and me before asking to be understood. Let me close with this question, what do you think your neighbor desires in a world that is so fractured and at times pulling itself apart from the seams? I think it is someone who continues 1) seeking to understand them, and yet 2) aches for someone to truly know them. The first one, we can do through the Holy Spirit as a witness of God’s love for us, even if we don’t agree. The second can only be achieved by Jesus Christ.