I’ve learned a lot about Greek and Hebraic thinking in recent years. I know, I know, I have written about it quite a bit, but it really does affect many things, ranging from our belief about God and Scripture to life and to teaching a teenage son. One aspect of Greek thinking is that two opposite things can’t both be true–if Thing A is true then Thing B is false. Greek thinking has resulted in many church debates and denominational splits over the centuries as people argue(d) about things like “Does God choose us OR do we choose God?” or “Is God sovereign OR do we have free will?” “They can’t both be true!” Hebrew thinking, on the other hand, believes that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than our ways and there is room for mystery. Two seemingly opposite things can both be true. God chooses us AND we choose Him. God is sovereign AND we have free will. The Jews believe “these, also, are the words of God.”
What does this have to do with what I’ve been pondering and discussing with my son? Everything! I was trying to figure out how to write thoughts that seem opposite and yet are connected, and finally thought of EYES!
Humans, along with many animals, have the ability to see three-dimensional images through the use of stereoscopic (also referred to as stereographic) vision. Stereoscopic vision involves the use of both eyes. When you focus on an object each eye has a slightly different view of it. Your left eye tends to see a little more of the left side of the object, while your right eye sees a little more of the right side. Your brain automatically uses this information, plus the angle your eyes have to turn to focus on the object, to supply you with an estimate of the distance of the object.
We have two different eyes and they see two different perspectives and it takes both to see God, others, and ourselves correctly!
When we deal with God, Scripture, life, people, and teenage sons, we need to have stereoscopic vision (Hebraic thinking). One the one hand, life is one way, and on the other hand, it is another way. If we look only through one eye OR only through the other (Greek thinking) then we miss really important truths. When we look through both eyes, we get a more correct picture of life. I am going to try to describe thoughts and discussions from more than one eye.
Yesterday I wrote about the way JJ sometimes sees his Dad and the way I see his Dad. JJ looks at his Dad through the present situation and how it affects him. He sometimes makes very quick judgments and assumptions about others without knowing the whole story.
I look at his Dad with more compassion because I understand his Dad’s heart and life. There are times when I have made quick judgments about people based on how they looked or how they acted. Later, when I heard their story, my heart broke for them, and I felt compassion for them. It’s one thing to get mad at someone who acted like a jerk, but another to realize that he was grumpy because he was just fired or had just heard that his son was killed in a car accident. It’s one thing to see a neighbor as a gossipy busy-body, but quite another to consider that maybe she’s merely a lonely widow.
I often think of a story in which a very popular kid came across a bullied geek struggling to carry home a heavy load of books. The geek dropped his heavy books and the popular kid picked them up and helped him carry them home. The geek and the popular kid formed a friendship. Several years later, the geek gave the valedictorian speech at his high school graduation. The popular kid was amazed when the geek said that he had taken all his books home that day because he had planned to commit suicide. Only the kindness of the popular kid kept him from killing himself. We don’t always know the power of a kind act–or the power of an unkind one.
I’m not always successful, but I try to remember:
Be Kind. Everyone you meet is facing a difficult battle.
Everyone has a sad, sad story.
On the other hand, viewing others with love and compassion does not mean that you don’t set healthy boundaries. A fallacy that exists today is that if a person has had a tragic life, he should not be held accountable for his actions. It’s not loving or healthy to keep your eyes closed to wrongdoing. It is not loving or healthy to set no boundaries, to allow a person to lie or cheat or abuse without action. John Parsons of the Hebrew for Christian website wrote that according to the Jews, we must ask forgiveness of those we’ve wronged, and we must forgive those who ask us to forgive them. However, there is a time not to forgive.
Not forgiving an unrepentant person, John wrote, might at first seem unloving, but it’s intended to ensure the integrity of everyone involved. We are not respecting ourselves or others if we suppress our pain by immediately offering excuses for the sins of the other person. Not only are we being emotionally dishonest with ourselves and hypocritical toward the other, he explains, but it degrades the image of God within us. It takes courage and self-worth to say to a person who has hurt us, “Hey–I am important here. I am hurt by what you did. And you matter to me, too. This relationship matters to me. If I didn’t care, I’d blow it off, but I do care, and therefore I won’t let this go.”
It will not help others to crush them with condemnation for their failures, which many people do. It also will not help them to turn a blind eye to their wrongs and pretend they are doing right when they are not. There must be several perspectives at once: we must see people with compassion, see the wounds that have crippled them, see the splinters of sin that is hurting them and needs to be removed, and lovingly help them see the God who loves, forgives, delivers, and heals them.
I just found the following from the Hebrew for Christian Facebook page. I think it is appropriate to share here:
God truly loves us, chaverim [friends], but that means he loves us enough to discipline us for our good and for the glory of His holy Name. As C.S. Lewis once remarked, God doesn’t love you because you are good, but He will make you good because He loves you. He shows us a “severe mercy…” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (אֱלהִים חַיִּים), though I would rather be corrected by our LORD than to be judged along with this world…
We also must see ourselves in a stereoscopic way. Some people have had awful lives and/or have done terrible things. They might feel that they are beyond help or forgiveness. But we all are human, we all fail, we all have weaknesses, and struggles, and sins, and dysfunctions. We all need a Savior to lift us out of the muck of our lives. No matter where we have been or what we have done, Jesus loves us with an unimaginable love, He died for us, and He will forgive us if we ask Him to.
At the same time, this does not mean that we can do whatever we want because, hey, we can just ask God to forgive us. Facing the truth about who we are is necessary. Repentance is necessary. Seeking God is necessary.
Sometimes EJ and I try to correct JJ. Maybe he is not listening in school, or doing his chores well, or he’s being disrespectful, or he’s not picking up his dirty socks (grrrr). Sometimes when corrected, JJ starts to deny doing anything wrong, he excuses it, he justifies it, he tries to shift the blame, or he attacks with angry, hurtful words. We don’t want him to do these things. We love him deeply, and we want to teach him to walk with God, to be faithful, to be honest, to be hardworking for his benefit. We know that if he doesn’t learn to work hard, he won’t keep a job later. If he doesn’t tell the truth, his relationships will suffer–and he could end up in legal trouble. If he isn’t faithful, he won’t keep his wife. We don’t want his excuses, etc., and we don’t want him to fall into despair that he is doing something wrong. We don’t expect him to be perfect, and we are willing to help him become all that he can become if he will let us. What we really want is for JJ to face himself, to acknowledge his wrongdoing, and to be teachable and correctable. In other words, we want him to repent.
When JJ was little, I’d say to him, “Oh, go look in the mirror!” I wanted him to see that his face was dirty. I didn’t point out his dirt because I thought he was an awful, unlovable kid or because I wanted to ridicule or condemn him. I pointed out the dirt because I wanted him to see that his face needed to be washed. Usually after looking in the mirror he’d say, “Will you wash it for me?” and I’d say OF COURSE and get out the wash cloth and soap.
God wants that too. He’s not a big Meanie who points out your sins because He wants to crush you with condemnation. Instead, He wants you to see and confront your sins and wounds so He can wash you clean and set you free.
Face your sins, your failures, your weaknesses, your dysfunctions, your wounds. Let God wash you clean and heal you. And then BELIEVE that what God says is true–that He loves you and forgives you and heals you with a love beyond imagining.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9