Don't Destroy What You Don't Understand: An Appeal for Discernment

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In the movie The Croods, a kids’ movie released about a year ago now (maybe two), there’s this moment: a family of neandrathal-y cave people discovers something they’ve never seen before, a simple, lovely conch shell. The daughter, more curious than the rest, blows into the shell, producing a loud, full, beautiful sound. She’s mesmerized. Her family is terrified. They tear it from her hands and stomp it to pieces.

It’s been a long time since I saw the movie, but I remember the girl called the shell “new,” and as soon as the word touched her family’s lips, they spit it out like poison.

I worry we Christians act like cavemen sometimes.

Like the Israelites acted when Isaiah prophesied…

Like Herod acted when John the Baptist preached…

Like the Pharisees acted when Jesus healed on the Sabbath…

Lashing out in violence, we break what we don’t understand.

What we haven’t seen done.

What doesn’t fit with the future we’ve planned.

What seems bigger than the box we built to house it.

Or messier and more complicated than we have time for.

If we don’t get it, we humans prefer to smash it.

I have nothing specific in mind as I write this post, no axe to grind, only the knowledge that God likes new—new songs, new things—that God has a track record of surprising those who should have seen Him coming, and that God Himself is a beautiful mystery, impossible to fully comprehend.

I look back over my days, and I know every opportunity for transformation, every step toward Christ-likeness, came wrapped in new—a new, poke-y book or a new, weird friend or a new-to-me passage of God-breathed truth.

Every time I chose to receive a new thought with patience, grace, and wonder, I found that posture rewarded with discovery. I learned something new about myself or about humankind, about nature, about God and His kingdom of light.

I’ve come to realize even the bad ideas get us thinking, discerning, working our wisdom muscles.  Listening (fully listening) to bad ideas, waiting to call them bad until we’ve weighed them thoughtfully and then figuring out what makes them bad—that’s all good, Godly work.

It is work, though.

Stomping is easy. Discerning is hard.

It takes self control and a willingness to be wrong. It takes courage and faith. It takes a lot of thinking, too—thinking with your mouth closed and ears open.

Solomon says in Proverbs 19, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Solomon’s saying, “People who discern shut up.”

They do ask questions. But mostly they listen.

And they hold off on destroying what they don’t understand.

May we be a discerning people who welcome the unexpected, who seek new horizons, and who embrace mystery without fear.