Clueless Christians in Need of Discernment
A moving sidewalk revealed two classes of people recently and confirmed something I’ve been promoting in a current preaching series on discernment.
You know what a moving sidewalk is, right? It’s an escalator without the up and down. I stepped onto one a few weeks ago and noticed the same sign that most all of them display, “Walk to the left. Stand to the right.” Moving sidewalks aren’t designed as much to make the journey easier, as to get you across longer distances quicker. As I started briskly onto this automated walkway, I was enjoying the idea of walking twice as fast while putting out no more effort than usual. But, my progress immediately came to a screeching halt as a family of five, two adults and three elementary age children, spread across the entire walkway, blocking the path for anyone trying to get to their destination. In fact, one of the kids was sitting in the middle with his legs crossed. I mustered up my kindest, “Excuse me, please,” which provoked one of the adults into turning to look at me, but not altering their stance in the slightest. I wondered if they didn’t understand me, so I tried, “Would you mind if I slip by?” Neither adult acknowledged me, but the youngest child told her sprawled out brother to scoot over. I somehow maneuvered through them and got on my way only to hear one of the adults say, “Why doesn’t he wait his turn?” I decided to write the company managing the walkways and ask if they would consider making people sign consent forms before they were allowed on the walkway.
Moments later I encountered another family, this one comprised of two adults and two elementary school children. They, too, were standing across the walkway, and I wondered if maybe they were holding a convention of the clueless that week. I was still several steps away and planning my strategy when the dad spoke to the two children and instructed them that they needed to be standing on the right so “people can get to where they are going.” As I passed by and conveyed a grateful “thank you!,” the mother said with a nice smile, “We’re sorry. They’re still in training.” As I walked away the dad was kindly explaining to his two children the purpose of the rule on the walkway.
I stepped off the walkway with opposite opinions of those two families. One of them was clueless, but the other impressed me because of their discernment. What I found striking was the first family had on matching t-shirts with the name of a Baptist church on it.
Situations like this, as well as many others I’ve observed, along with some concerns for my own life, have led me to a detailed study of practical discernment. By practical I mean it isn’t focused exclusively on purely spiritual matters, though the truths are explicitly biblical. Rather, I was interested in the ability to know the best way to act or respond in any situation. Growing up I watched a mom and a dad who seemed to know how to act in any group at any time. I became convinced that I wanted to learn that quality because I figured God could use me in more places if I could learn how to conduct myself in any situation. The most accurate word I could find was “discernment.” Jesus stated clearly that people should be able to see your works and, therefore, glorify God (Matthew 5:16). Knowing how to do that anyplace, at any time became a lifelong passion.
One reason I wanted it was because of how God treated Solomon’s request. Solomon could have asked God for a lot of things, but he asked for discernment. God agreed to help him with discernment, but also gave him so much more because he chose discernment as his request. I believe God still works that way. You could ask for money or a new job or a certain mate.But, learning how to exercise discernment provides an opportunity to gain all those benefits in much greater measure than you could obtain directly. I’m convinced I can be so much more by an intense focus and desire for discernment.
No one should have a better handle on discernment than Christians. They have access to timeless truth from the One who knows all hearts. They have the Holy Spirit to help them in a moment’s notice. The Scripture is saturated with both principles and examples for equipping all believers with the ability to see what is most important around them at the moment and speak or act accordingly.
Sadly, though, Christians can sometimes be the loudest ones in the restaurant and leave the biggest messes. Their kids can be as unruly as any lost family. Churches are populated by members who are as self-absorbed as the richest in town. Buckshot preaching and ill-planned services leave guests feeling like the last Taco Bell that couldn’t geta simple burrito right. Some pay their bills late. Some can be the most irritating customers and the most inconsiderate drivers. We all know it’s true, and we all know it shouldn’t be.
While an article does not allow the space to outline a series of messages, I present one biblical reason among many that I believe it’s possible, even needful, for every Christian to excel at discernment. I Corinthians 10:31 says, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. We all know the direct point of that verse because it is stated quite plainly. But, it is something that is assumed in the verse that helps me with discernment. It assumes that God created us with the ability to think bigger than the act we are currently performing. He created us to be able to eat, but be thinking about something much more than eating. We can drink because we are thirsty, but be thinking of a much greater context than just being thirsty. He wouldn’t instruct us to eat while thinking of God’s glory if we were incapable of doing so.
Basically, we should be able to perform any act that any lost person does while thinking of purposes for that moment greater than the lost man would. The clueless simply focus on whatever they’re doing at the moment. The discerning realize the gain of subjecting that act to a much higher purpose and conforming the act to that purpose. The undiscerning Christian goes to a restaurant and thinks about eating and fellowshipping. The discerning Christian realizes that there are other parties in the very next booth, as well as a hard-working, maybe hurting, waitress, who saw them pray over their food. Therefore, their volume, as well as their demands on the waitress will be driven by something more than mere laughter and eating.
Many of you will undoubtedly bring to mind situations that make you say, “That’s right! That’s exactly what I saw the other day. They really needed this!” For the sake of God’s glory and Christianity’s reputation in your community, could I ask you instead to search for your own possible weakness in discernment? If nothing else, please don’t wear your WWJD t-shirt the next time you stand in the middle of a moving walkway while lost people are trying to get around you.