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What I Don't Understand Is...

A lot, actually.  But let me narrow the scope considerably- specifically to one point we’ll get to in a bit.  Let me explain.

For probably about two decades now, and I don’t really even remember the impetus for formulating what follows- it may have been a question by a younger man who was contemplating preaching as a vocation or something like that, I’ve been saying (and believing!) that “There are primarily three things that a preacher has to know:

  1. The Book- for that is his text;
  2. People- for they are his target; and,
  3. Himself- for his own strengths/weaknesses determine his capabilities/limitations in proclaiming the gospel (meeting the objective).

So, with this philosophical mantra, I’ve devoted considerable diligence to the task of making myself “approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed” able to “handle(ing) accurately the word of truth,” 2Tim.2:15.  But, I’ve also exerted myself to know people (how/why they think, feel, and act as they do) and myself (introspection with regard to particular strengths and weakness in order to maximize my seed sowing capabilities and limit my liabilities).  In the 20-25 years since formulating and seeking to follow this philosophy, here’s my conclusion- and you’re perfectly free to agree or disagree, but please give it some thought before making up your mind:  Of these three entities that need to be at least basically understood to be effective at this work of preaching, understanding People is the hardest.  Please hear me out:

  1. The Book is written by our Creator for us as His creation to read and understand, Eph.3:3-4; He knew/knows not only man’s needs but also his wants as well as his capabilities and limitations- therefore He provided the “information” that man not only needed, but could understand with basic cognitive skills coupled with honest intellectual motivations, 2Pet.1:3.  
  2. And any individual can understand himself/herself with the same modicum of cognitive skills if he/she focuses them honestly and objectively inward, cf. Jas.1:22-25
  3. But understanding “people” in general or specific, to me at least, seems to be a much more difficult task.  If I’m honestly objective about myself, I can discern that I have reasons for what I think, how I feel, and what I do/don’t do- they may not be “good” reasons, but I have and can identify them, and then either correct or excuse/justify them.

So, with a fundamental knowledge/understanding of God’s word as a guide, honestly-motivated objective introspection will allow me to “know” rather “deceive” or “delude” myself about “me”  (1Cor.3:18; Jas.1:16,22).   But neither you nor I can really do more than observe the “fruits” or actions of others, and postulate thus what might be in their hearts.  As God Himself so succinctly stated to Samuel, “God sees not as a man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” 1Sam.16:7.

All of which brings us to what is to me an inescapable conclusion:  It is much easier for a person to know the basics of God’s word and his/herself than it is to comprehend other humans.  Please think about the following to illustrate why “man” is such a conundrum…

For the sake of our premise, let’s grant some things that may or may not be entirely true universally, but certainly are so for at least a good portion of the populace:

  1. People “believe in” God;
  2. They believe the Bible to be “His Word;”
  3. They believe the Bible’s main objective is to instruct man how to please God, and thus be enabled to live forever with Him in heaven after death;
  4. They have easy access to His Word, the Bible, as well as ample opportunities for assistance/guidance to understand it; and yet,
  5. Most do not read it for themselves; seek no assistance or guidance to understand it, and thus have next to no real idea what the Bible says, means, and requires.

This I cannot understand.  It is irrational, and borderline insanity.  Numbers 1 through 4 do not and cannot logically lead to number 5… and yet it is, for many, absolutely true.

For those “lost” on the Day of Judgment, the overwhelming reason will not be lack of opportunity, but lack of initiative- “for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of truth so as to be saved,” 2Thess.2:10.  Please, read your Bible and avail yourself of ample opportunities and assistance to understand what it says and means.  Eternity depends on it.