‘O Lord, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me.’ Psalm 131:1-2
What great advice for a culture which has grown Roman-stiff in personal pride, so haughty and inflexible in our opinions that we cannot bear the thought that someone might see things differently, so certain that we understand complex matters to which we never gave a moment’s thought until this morning when we were suddenly illumined by five minutes of video feed that now we’re all suddenly experts. What great advice for a nation which suddenly all have epidemiology degrees, where all of us are PhDs in geosciences, where we all have deep knowledge of the complexities of Afghan history and politics (I’m always shocked by how people who don’t know the difference between Shia and Sunni think they understand the identity crisis within modern Islam), where every person who’s ever darkened a pew is apparently a theologian of such profundity that s/he’s entitled to denounce people for heresy.
There’s truth–and I’m all in favor of truth. But Truth, friends, has a name and a face and two pierced hands. Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus. Do your sound bites sound like Him? And every one of His personal friends understood Him a little differently–hence the four Gospels, and Peter’s feuds with Paul. Then there’s fact, and I’m all in favor of that too. It’s a fact that the weather’s weird everywhere lately. It’s a fact that Apollinarianism is a named heresy condemned by the early Church. It’s a fact that New Haven produces exponentially the best pizza in North America and that Chicago produces only tomato pie…see where I went there, suddenly interjecting my opinion into the category of fact when, in fact, it’s no more than opinion.
But understanding what facts mean, the ‘why’ of things, that’s a high and subtle thing, a hard matter, which is likely to be too hard for me and you unless we dedicate a great deal of study and time and thought to it. And unless I’m willing to put the time and discipline and energy into that process I probably ought to hush up and tame my opinions and listen more than I talk. And not just to the people whose opinions already agree with mine. In other words, to listen to my Grandma, who used to say I was given two ears and one mouth for a reason.
We need a dose of humility. A massive cultural injection of humility. In the nation and in the church. Most things are simply too hard for me, great matters far above my pay grade. Heck, even fights over New Haven vs Chicago are really above my pay grade, as ‘de gustibus non est disputandum.’ No accounting for tastes, in other words. And a lot of what people scream about is a matter of taste, in which case unless it’s leading them to do illegal acts or harm their neighbor, hey, live and let live. My neighbor has the right to be wrong in my eyes and still we can be neighbors and I can love her. What we don’t get to disagree on is facts. Because it’s a fact that the weather’s weird everywhere, and that following Jesus means being more loving than it means winning arguments and getting my way in a dispute. In fact, I don’t seem to remember Him Who is Truth ever telling us to win an argument–doesn’t He say to settle things out of court rather than rehearse our subtle arguments in advance?–or to get our way–doesn’t He say to be willing to lose our lives, let alone this afternoon’s catfight, in order to find our Life?