In this weekend’s sermon, Greg closes our Crux of the Matter series by discussing the importance of zooming in on the hearts of people as we zoom out on our need to be right.
Greg begins today discussing Revelations 12:4 —
His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the ground.
He tells the story of a radio preacher who, preaching on this verse, spoke of how the stars must not be that large and not to believe the “liberal, big universe professors.” According to him, the Bible clearly states that the Devil took 1/3 of them and threw them to the ground, therefore they can’t be big balls of helium. Greg brings out the point that the author of Revelation might have thought the same thing. From our perspective, the stars look small, and if we didn’t know how far they were we might assume the same thing this AM radio preacher did. We need to realize how zoomed in we are and how zoomed out we are not just with objects, but also everything else. It frames how we respond to situations, problems, politics and life. Our frame of reference and perspective increases as we grow and mature, and problems that seemed huge at a younger stage of life, shrink in their significance as our perspective enlarges. Greg tells the story about losing his pet chameleon at the age of 6, and how devastated he was. It felt like the world ended to him.
During his ministry, Greg argues, Jesus constantly demonstrated his ability to zoom in on people and zoom out on the social political debates thrown at him.
For example we read Luke 12:13-21 —
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or an arbiter over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
When a man in the crowd asked him to weigh in on his dispute with his brother, Jesus zooms out and recognizes what was and wasn’t. Jesus was not here to answer all our questions and settle disputes about society and kingdom of the world issues. He was here to bring about a radically different kingdom. Jesus then zooms in on the person asking the question and addresses the heart behind the question. He warns the man to “be on guard against all kinds of greed.” Jesus then uses this as an example to zoom out and teach the crowd a new paradigm concerning wealth. What good is it to be rich in material things? In the context of death and eternity, an abundance of earthly possessions is worthless. Instead we should be focused on being “rich toward God.” Life is so much more than a collection of things. We must guard against our zoomed in view of the value of material wealth and adopt a big picture view of eternity.
Greg poses the question: Considering that we are to be like Jesus, how can we learn to zoom in and zoom out appropriately? This is especially necessary when in a debate where so often we can become triggered and lose our kingdom focus. If we zero in on our own rightness, we lose perspective of the other person and how we are called to love them. If we are not intentional, it is extremely easy for us give in to our triggers, become angry, and activate our fight or flight reflexes. Our brain knows that pattern well. To combat this fallen tendency Greg suggest 4 strategies for zooming out and reprogramming our trigger.
Strategy #1: Zoom out to remember your identity and calling.
- We are children of God who get our identity and worth from Christ, not being right. We don’t need to prove our worth by our rightness. We are called to represent Jesus and his love in every conversation we have. How we talk is more important than what we talk. How we debate is more important than what we debate. In our disagreements we are still called to manifest the character of God and love on the person we are disagreeing with. We must remember their unsurpassable worth.
Strategy #2: Zoom out to put the discussion in perspective.
- Once triggered, the conversation takes center stage in our focus. It can feel as if the world depends on us convincing the other person of our rightness. It is okay to believe that we are right, but we must hold our rightness with a zoomed out perspective. The world doesn’t revolve around our ability to convince each other of our rightness, even though we act as if it does. What the conversation does deeply affect is the relationship between the two parties involved. If we zoom in on our rightness, we can harm our relationships. But we are called to reconciliation. Meaning that we are to be moving towards other people in love. Again, how we debate is more important than what we say.
Strategy #3: Zoom out to surrender the discussion to God.
- We desire to steer the conversation towards us being right, but as God’s ambassadors, we are called instead to be seeking him in our conversations. When we release are need to control the conversation we create space for God. To illustrate this point, Greg tells the story of this female student of his, who in class and out would vehemently argue her view of Calvinism. One day out of class in Greg’s office as she was debating with him, Greg was able to zoom out and felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to mention rape and 3 days. In doing so, he uncovered a tragedy that had happened in this young woman’s life where she had been date raped 3 days prior and was afraid to report it. This profound wound and the young woman’s heart was so much more important than the debate they were having of Calvinism vs Arminianism.
Strategy #4: Zoom out to zoom in.
- The reason why we zoom out is so that we can create space to zoom in on the person and what God might be saying to us or them. This doesn’t mean that we stop talking, or that we give up on ever thinking that we are right. It doesn’t even mean that the topic isn’t important. It means that we recognize that how we relate to each other and loving other people, who have infinite worth and value, is more important. We can do this by asking questions. Exploring what people think or feel with curiosity. Asking what need this belief might be filling. What is driving them? Really listening to them, not just giving them a chance to talk while you think of your rebuttal and collect ammunition. Instead, we are to really take the time to enter in to each other’s worldview. We show the worth of the person we are discussing with by being present with them and listening to them. In every conversation, reflecting God’s love towards that person is more important than the conversation itself.
Lastly, Greg explains how much of society is run off of labels and an us vs. them mentality. People label themselves and others and develop language and slogans to determine who is in and who is out. We then attribute rightness and superiority to our group, labeling the other as wrong and inferior. This is not to be so in the church. The labels that define the world must not apply in the church. Our job is to see people, not categories. We must zoom out and realize that people are not slogans or categories or saying, they are people, with unsurpassable worth. Love is particular. We must love people in their uniqueness and particularities. Greg illustrates how not only can labels harm people, but they can be deadly. Two ladies wanted Greg to council them. They were a couple and had some issues. Greg agreed to meet with them after class and found out how broken these two women were. They had a past that was horrific and met in a psych ward, having both attempted suicide. It was clear to Greg within 20 minutes of their first meeting that the only thing keeping one of them alive was the relationship she had with the other woman. She wanted so bad to end her miserable life with all the pain she had been through. The only positive thing she ever had was this other woman. It became clear to Greg that if he was ever to talk about their relationship, it would be way down the road after the 4000 thousand other areas of brokenness first. People’s lives are very complex, and if we lead with what we think we know about God’s opinion, we could do terrible harm and break people. We must instead zoom in on people and lead with love. How’s their heart? Who are they? What drives them? What motivates them?
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