“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror” [Paul in 1st Corinthians].
What does it take to make a statement like that about what we know?
Years ago, when I was a student in the adult Sunday school class in which I now teach, a very devout and intelligent M.D. responded to a question the teacher asked him one day with those very words. I will never forget that day. I don’t know why I remember such things. However, I was always impressed with his grasp of the Bible, his ability to quote scripture, and his articulation of answers to questions that were so troubling for the rest of us.
“For now we see…”
For me that was one of his best answers.
He and his wife moved around a lot so he did not stay here for many years. He left our church and his practice in Hopkinsville and continued his travels in the world. Of all the answers he gave in class, this is the one that sticks with me.
He admitted his limitations.
That is so rare today, to see someone admit that they don’t know it all. This is the season when we are quick to say you are wrong, you are unfaithful, you are defective in your thinking and you are not right with God…as if we are 100% sure of those statements.
For me his use of Paul’s words is at the heart of working toward understanding others.
It seems what happens to most of us in life is that we grab some truth from someone, some book, some magazine, some online source and we make it ours and we hold onto it for dear life. In matters of religion, we read scripture, we hear a pastor on television, we go to a Bible study and we grab something that makes sense for us there. That’s ok. We have our beliefs. For a belief to be added to our thinking, it has to be compatible with our core values. Core values are defined as “the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. They help people to know what is right from wrong” [from Your Dictionary]. Core values develop over time and they don’t change easily. Beliefs are another matter. They are defined as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists or something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction” [from Your Dictionary].
The major question is, do beliefs change?
They do or rather, they can.
What causes them to change? Additional facts and additional life experiences.
Some people don’t want to change anything about what they believe. That’s ok. No one can make another person change their beliefs, but personally over the years I have been proven wrong and I found I needed to change.
A simple example comes from my experiences at my church. Like all humans, I observe others and I sadly draw conclusions about them based on their behavior. I should not do it but I do because I want to have some way of “filing them away” in my mind. I say sadly because I sometimes find that I put a person “in the wrong file”. I get around to a lot of people in my church, making an effort to talk to them, getting to know them as much as I can. I am astounded by the changes in my beliefs that I have had to make when I really get to know people better; when I see the physical pain they have to endure, the poor treatment they have received from loved ones, the fear that they have to deal with on a daily basis. The more I converse, the more context I have and I see why they act the way they do.
Before I go too far astray, let’s get back to the good doctor.
How does all this information about core values and changing beliefs relate to him? Did he have core values? Of course he did. Did he have beliefs? Of course he did. Did he hold to his convictions most of the time? Yes he did.
But once in a while he just held his hands up and said “For now we see…”
He was admitting that he did not know all the answers. He was not sure that what he was thinking was correct. He was admitting that he was open to additional facts and additional “after-life” experiences [God would give him the information he needed after he found himself in God’s presence].
He trusted God would tell him the truth one day.
His humility was so impressive. He admitted that we are never intended to know it all. The Lord declared in Isaiah 55 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
And you know what?
He was ok with that.
And I was just glad that I was there to hear him say “For now we see…”