When I was a young boy, one of the most profound pieces of advice my father ever gave to me was this:
Don’t form an opinion on someone based on the words of someone else.
For 20 odd years, I enjoyed playing cricket with various clubs. Every Saturday morning, I can still remember the smell of the fly repellent, the fresh dew on the grass at 8am, and chatting and laughing with my buddies. The regular butterflies in my stomach in some ways still haunt me as I prepared to pad up to face the first ball of the day. Whether I was out in the middle batting, bowling or fielding, or whether I was sitting with my team mates waiting to bat, cricket was great fun.
I recall my very first game at Llandilo against Nepean Youth Club. They were formidable opponents. We fielded first. When it was time to bat, I pleaded with Mr Hadler to let me open the batting. He accepted. I remember racing out to the middle to face the first ball. On a score of 1 run, my team mate hit the ball straight back to the bowler, and in my haste to be on strike, I started running. Much like most of my running between the wickets in my grade days, I was run out from an utterly suicidal attempt at a run. Ha! Those were fond memories.
With these pleasant memories, playing cricket for many years also exposed me to the dark side of the sport. It wasn’t the actual game that was ‘dark’, but rather the politics of the selections and so on. The politics of the game brought the worst out in people. Good mates would turn on one another, dragging down people who had nothing to do with the disagreement.
I can still recall the time when the Penrith Junior Cricket Association elected a new President, Mr Clarence. He revolutionised many aspects of the club, drawing new sponsors, innovations and interests in the club. These changes allowed more boys who did not make the first XI to be involved in representative cricket. I benefitted from this when I was in the Under 13s, playing in the IDCA comp that year.
With the revolutionary changes, though, came the opponents. Many people had negative things to say about Mr Clarence, some perhaps may have been warranted. Though, even when I was inclined to agree with the petty gossip, my father, however, was very quick to redirect me to think about the interactions I had had with Mr Clarence as opposed to blindly following what other people had to say about him. “Clarence seems alright to me”, my dad would say. “Don’t listen to what others say, Rhys”.
We humans have a nasty knack of blindly believing and following others. A great deal of the time, we are persuaded by the petty, agenda laden gossip, aimed at turning one against another. The poison tends be proceeded by a gentle and seductive, “You won’t believe what I heard…”. It’s in our workplaces, our clubs, all over the media and into our homes.
Now, take that poison we’ve all been dosed up with and consider how much of it has persuaded you and your perceptions about God. I wonder how much you truly know about what Christianity actually teaches about God? I wonder whether you have ever considered who God is and what He desires. We all have some theological understandings, from believing in an all-powerful deity, to believing in not believing in a deity, pardon my play on words. But, just how much have your perceptions about the divine been shaped by the unguided and misleading popular media. I wonder whether you’ve based these beliefs about God on what someone else has said rather than just listening to God himself.
One of the most provocative stories in the Bible is about the interaction between God and his first people, Adam and Eve. After crafting all that exists, God carefully and wonderfully created humans in his image (Genesis 1:26). God then placed the first humans into an abundant paradise, filled with sumptuous treasures. God personally related with them, protecting and providing for their every need.
As the story progresses, we meet the ultimate chaos agent, the serpent. Rather than being a faithful member of God’s creation, the serpent worked towards forming a wedge between God and his image bearers. The serpent, just like the gossipers we encounter day after day, whispered the most manipulative words – “Did God really say; He is holding you back from reaching your potential; You can be just like God!” Rather than trusting in the integrity of God first hand, the first humans rejected Him in open rebellion. They based their opinion of God on what someone else had told them.
To not know God is a product of our rebellion. To not seek to know God is an outworking of our rebellion. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss, but ignorance does not hold up in court. This world and everything in it belongs to God. You and I belong to God and a day of reckoning has been set when we will give an account for the way we have lived the life God has given us. This life only has meaning when we are plugged into following God’s plans and purposes. But how can one do this without knowing God and what He wants? Rather than rely on what God has said about himself, we tend to rely on what others have said about Him. I’m sure you’ve heard all too often, “God wouldn’t care if I did this”, or “God isn’t like that”. Honestly, how would you know whether God would care or what he’s like if you don’t even know Him?
My father’s wise words still ring true. Rather than go to someone else to know about God, a more productive thing to do would be to ask yourself what does God actually say about himself. Christians, for two thousand years, have believed that the Bible is the inspired words of God. They believe that if you want to know God, then reading the Bible is the answer as in it, God reveals himself through them, ultimately pointing to Jesus, God incarnate.
So, finally, what’s my point? The Bible has a huge amount to say about God and our relationship with Him. The challenge I have for you is do you actually know what the Bible has to say about God? Have you ever sat down and actually studied it? Are you going to take ‘my dad’s wise advice’ and take God for face value, or will you rely on what others have said about Him?
Psalm 100 - Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture….. For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Have a Merry Christmas