This past weekend I worked on a fence project and as I checked the level of a trim board, I discovered a curious thing (yeah, I notice the odd stuff). After adjusting to “level”, it actually appeared to be “un-level”. On further inspection from different views I noticed the slope of the ground, coupled with the angles, created a bit of an optical illusion. To be honest, for a moment I actually contemplated nailing it “un-level” so it would “look level”.
I’m sure builders just check plumb, level and square, then nail it automatically; but it got me to thinking. How often does culture develop slopes around us, creating optical illusions in the search for spiritual “level”? I mean, what’s the real standard as we fasten our positions on various things? Is it the truth of scripture, or some form of it adjusted to “look level”? For example, most people would agree things like lying, stealing, committing murder or adultery are wrong, but a closer look at Jesus’ teaching reveals even contemplation of them is a problem (Matt. 5:28).
In our world today, we’re faced with social issues and questions (not unlike believers in the 1st century). Like many of you, I’m trying to discern the “lay of the land” and teach our children truth in a tilted world. It’s not easy, but I can tell you from personal experience; it’s a great subject to spend time praying through. God’s truth predates all of us and will be rock solid after we’re gone. As you seek to determine the angles of “level” in your life, here are 3 points to help find the center:
- View the Old Testament as Jesus interpreted it – As Jesus taught, He quoted passages from what we call the Old Testament. It’s tempting to pick and choose verses from the OT that condemn what we dislike, but ignore the ones challenging our attitudes and hearts (like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did). In the Gospels, we often find Jesus clarifying and highlighting the bigger picture concerning Himself and the purpose of God’s revealed truth (redemption-John 3:16-17, 14:6).
- Priorities as Jesus defined them – Another item on Jesus’ “to-do” list was identifying what should be top priority in the lives of those who call themselves “believers”. When asked about the top commandment, He replied:
“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” –Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV
- Reconciliation as motive – As we interact with people, there’s no shortage of opportunities to use the truth as a weapon. Paul even references the truth of God’s word as a sword (an offensive and defensive weapon) in Ephesians 6:17. However, use of it should ALWAYS be tempered by our mission of reconciling people to Christ. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 that we have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” and are to be “ambassadors for Christ”. The bottom line is that if we love Christ, we’ll love who/what He loves.
PS. If you’ve read this post, I’ve prayed for you. My first prayer is that you know Jesus personally in a real way and have experienced His love and forgiveness. Second, I pray that you’ll have discernment to apply God’s truth to your life, your circumstances and those you influence – thanks for reading!