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Learning from the opposition
- Jacob Ninan
You may have heard the imaginary story about a visitor to heaven and hell. He first went to hell and saw a sumptuous feast laid out on the table before the people. But each person had his arms straightened out by tying a stick along the arms. And they were cursing and swearing in frustration because they could not bend their elbows to take and put food into their mouths. When this man next went to heaven he saw that even there the same food was laid on the tables and their arms were tied in the same fashion. But they were enjoying the food, because each one was feeding his neighbour with his long arm!
This story came to my mind when I was wondering about how to understand the Bible accurately. I was coming to some clear conclusions on the subject.
1. No one understands the Bible completely.
2. Every one of us has errors in our understanding.
3. True understanding of the truth is distributed among different groups.
No group or person holds monopoly over God's truth. Those who are born again agree on certain baseline truths concerning the nature of God and His plan of salvation. But beyond that, all of us hold some part of the truth, and there are others who hold other parts of the truth. The funny part is that there are those with whom we may disagree on certain concepts and interpretations who have some part of the truth that we do not have. Without admitting this fact to ourselves or to the others, we tend to stand in our own groups and keep the others at a distance away from us. And then we struggle to understand certain parts of God's word without realising that some of these others in the 'opposition party' may have better understanding on those parts we are struggling with!
It looks like our wise Father has planned these things in such a way that without cooperating with one another we will never be in a position to understand the length, breadth, height and depth of His truths (Ep.3:17-19)! Like in the story it looks as if we have to feed the others and receive from the others. We may be eager to feed the others since we think that we know a thing or two to share with the others. But are we also willing to receive from others what they have to give us?
I think what most of us are actually doing is to stand in our own group and point out where all the others are wrong. We don't even try to listen to what they are saying, or read what they have written to see where we could learn something from them. Once we have classified them as being in error on some issues, we totally keep them out of our circle. We don't think that while they may be wrong about some things, they may be right about some things we are wrong about! What they have to say may be just the right pieces to complete some part of our jigsaw puzzle!
Certainly great balance and caution are required to keep out error while trying to learn new things. But keeping away from the 'opposition' is not the solution.