Dunning-Kruger: A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing

Have you heard of cognitive biases?

Everyone has them. If you think you don’t, then that’s called the Blind-Spot Bias.

In some ways we couldn’t function without them. Cognitive biases are kind of like shortcuts in the brain. We take in so much information throughout the day that we have to find a quick, somewhat efficient way to make sense of it all. Add to that the fact that we are highly social beings and we desire almost above everything else to be a part of an “in group.” So we will overlook and ignore some things in order to keep our own personal beliefs and actions in line with the group to which we want to belong.

I would argue that most cognitive biases are not inherently bad, so long as we recognize them and can become more aware of when we are relying on them too heavily. But if we are aren’t self-aware, if we just kind of live on autopilot and let our cognitive biases take too much control, then what starts out as a shortcut can quickly turn into a train wreck.

As a Christian and one who pays attention to the social fabric of our world, I am simply astounded by  the types of cognitive biases I see derailing our lives and conversations, especially online. Let’s try to take a faith-informed look at some of the more common biases so we can become more aware of how they affect our lives and what we can do about it.
__________
I’M NO EXPERT, BUT…


One of the more interesting cognitive biases is named the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It’s a psychological phenomenon where the less a person knows about a particular subject, the more confident they are in their perceived understanding. In other words, they know just enough about something to be dangerous with it. But if they actually put in the time and effort to thoroughly study a topic, their overall confidence decreases with more knowledge. At some point along the way, as they approach expert status, their confidence slowly climbs back up. The graph looks like this:

If you pay attention to all the different voices coming our way about this pandemic, you will see the Dunning-Kruger Effect in full swing. Those who know just a little bit are often the loudest, most confident, with the most certainty in their statements. But actual experts in the field speak with seemingly more uncertainty. They aren’t as apt to give straight-forward answers, and they readily admit that there are a lot of unknowns. Because here’s the thing about experts – ONLY EXPERTS KNOW WHAT THE UNKNOWNS ARE. And if they really are experts, they will admit where the knowledge base is unclear on any given topic.

Unfortunately, this preys on our bias towards ascribing credibility to those who sound confident in their arguments. Plenty of falsehoods are being spread from loud, confident-sounding novices, and that gets our attention.

As people of faith, we should always be somewhat skeptical of anyone claiming to have all the answers, especially if they are simply trying to out-shout the other voices. Jesus often got into arguments with the religious leaders of his day – men who knew just enough about the Scriptures to be dangerous. There is a level of humility that comes with true knowledge. If anyone thinks they have “arrived” and know all there is to know about a certain topic, then that’s when we must be on our guard.

One of the best examples of this is when Paul went through his conversion. He started off as a know-it-all Pharisee. Then the resurrected Jesus rocked his world and showed him how little he actually knew. This same Paul would go on to write, “I determined to know nothing among you except Christ and him crucified.”

When it comes to the pandemic, health and safety, or even religion, I would rather listen to the humble expert than the overconfident novice.
__________

For a quick guide to more cognitive biases, I recommend this article from Business Insider: 61 Cognitive Biases that Screw Up Everything We Do

FAITHFUL | 40 Days of Focus, Day 14

 

“You shall not commit adultery.”
(Exodus 20:14)

We’ve all heard the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Actually, that’s a myth. First, in no way does that mean your particular marriage only has a 50% chance of lasting a lifetime. It simply means that at one point in our nation’s history (a couple decades ago now) for every 2 marriages in a given year, there was 1 divorce. The divorce rate was half that of the marriage rate.

This phenomenon occurred on the heels of court rulings that gave women more authority and control in filing for divorce proceedings. When women were given the chance, they were finally able to end a bad marriage. Imagine being stuck in an abusive marriage, or knowing your spouse is sleeping around, and not being able to do anything about it.

In reality, however, the divorce rate has been on the decline – dropping around 18% over the past decade? Why? Because newly married young people are staying together longer. True, fewer young adults are currently married than ever before (functioning under the mindset of ‘if it’s just going to end in divorce, then why bother?’). But those who do choose to get married are remaining more faithful to each other than comparative couples of previous generations.

This may come as no surprise, but infidelity is still listed as the top specific reason for divorce at nearly 30%. Unfortunately those statistics are not much different for couples inside the church.

The positive intention behind the prohibition is to uphold and honor the covenant of marriage. God railed against the apathetic treatment of wedding vows in the prophetic book of Malachi.

Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.
So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
(Malachi 2:15-16)

Did you catch that line? The man who hates and divorces his wife does violence to the one he should protect. This is where we need to speak wisdom into the subject of adultery, unfaithfulness, and divorce. Adultery does not JUST mean sexual immorality. Adultery is not JUST about sex. Adultery is about breaking a covenant. Israel was often called an “adulterous” nation for breaking their covenant with God by worshiping other gods, mistreating the poor, abusing the sacrificial system, taking advantage of people through unbalanced weights and measures, etc.

Israel was in a covenant with God. They broke that covenant and were labeled “adulterers.” Marriage is not just a financial or social institution. It’s a covenantal arrangement between a man, a woman, and God. To break that covenant is to commit adultery – by sleeping around, by abusing your spouse, by neglecting them, and by “doing violence against the one you should protect.” Marriage is so much more than sex. So is adultery.

In the days of Jesus there was a great debate on this issue. Some took the side of Rabbi Hillel who taught that a man could divorce his wife for basically any reason. He emphasized the phrase “who becomes displeasing to him.” Others took the side of Rabbi Shammai who taught that marital unfaithfulness was the only legal grounds for divorce. Whose side did Jesus take?

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
(Matthew 19:3-9)

Even though Jesus wasn’t married, he upheld the importance of marriage. Faithfulness to one’s spouse goes hand in hand with one’s faithfulness to God. That’s why Jesus said such radical things as this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
(Matthew 5:27-30)

In other words, don’t even think about cheating on your wife. Don’t even think about sleeping around with men who aren’t your husband. Because eventually thoughts will become actions. People often leave their partners in the head long before they leave them in the bed.

You can see why these commandments are so important. God wanted to ensure a thriving society for his people. When cultures fail to honor their family commitments, when they treat human life as expendable, and when they cease to uphold their wedding vows, society begins to break down. Life, marriage, family – these things should be honored and kept sacred for our own good and the good of society. This is why I try to live up to Jesus’ standard and put into practice the words of Paul in Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
(Ephesians 5:25-33)

_____________________________

Have you heard people toss around the “50%” statistic in relation to marriage and divorce? How does it make you feel about marriage? Is it worth fighting for? Or is it not worth bothering?

Do you think that healthy marriages are a vital part of a healthy society? Why or why not?

In what specific ways can you embody Christ’s sacrificial love in your marriage?

LIFE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 13

 

“You shall not murder.”
(Exodus 20:13)

I think it’s safe to assume that the majority of us could read this command and think, “Done. Next!”

All in all, it seems pretty easy not to kill people. I personally don’t know any murderers. The overall rate of murder and violent crimes is on the decline throughout most of the country. So…odds are that you will see command number six and think, “I’m good.

But you know it’s not that easy. If it were that easy, Jesus wouldn’t have had to bring it up in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
(Matthew 5:21-22)

I find it helpful to reframe these “you shall not” commands and find the positive intention behind the prohibition. This command, as Jesus points out, is not just about not killing, its intention is the preservation of life. To take another person’s life is to snuff out the most sacred part of creation. We can understand that. But to insult, degrade, and oppress another person is to snuff out the Image of God within them, which, according to Jesus, is just another way of violating the sixth command.

So yes, all Christians should be on the side of life. I don’t want to use the term “pro-life” because that has taken on such a one-dimensional connotation. Abortion is DEFINITELY against the sixth command – but so is racism and prejudice and police brutality and sexual abuse and bombing civilians and torture and hate speech and capital punishment and the military industrial complex.

Think of it this way. Where God is, there is life. Through Jesus’ own death and resurrection, he conquered death. Beyond that, his death revealed the baseless and gratuitous violence of the state for what it was. The Pax Romana offered peace at the edge of a sword – and that’s not true peace. The way of Christ – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – is the way of the cross. It’s dying to yourself so you can really know what life means.

Jesus tells what I consider to be the scariest story ever in Matthew 25.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:41-46)

It’s not enough to not murder. Just because I don’t kill you doesn’t mean I love you. When I’m willing to lay down my own life for your sake, though, that’s true love. That’s the true heart of the sixth command. You may not go around murdering people, but do you help feed the hungry? Do you help provide water for those who have nothing to drink? Do you help clothe the naked? Are you a loving presence for those who are sick or in prison?

In other words, are you on the side of life or death?

“Jesus in Disguise” statue in Rome
If you search the Bible for the phrase “choose life” you will be directed to a powerful passage in Deuteronomy 30, some of Moses’ last words to the nation of Israel before he died:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess…
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
(Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19-20)

Don’t just not kill people. Choose life.

Don’t just be anti-abortion. Choose life.

Don’t just look out for your own interests. Choose life.

Don’t judge the sick, hungry, and homeless. Choose life.

There’s an amazing story of this in action. In the early days of the church, the Christians were living in a culture that did not value the life of infants. The fathers could make a decision to literally discard a baby for various reasons – maybe it was a deformity, maybe it was a little too small for its age, maybe it was a girl. The father would take this unwanted baby and leave it in the town dump to die from the elements. The Christians took Jesus’ call to choose life seriously. They went out and rescued these babies, adopting them and raising them as their own. The Roman government began to notice that these unwanted babies were growing up to become normal, healthy, functioning members of society and eventually outlawed the practice of infanticide.

When God’s people choose life, we can literally change the world.
______________________________

When people talk about being “pro-life” do they only mean in terms of abortion or is it in every aspect of life? What do you think about that?


What do you think of this quote? “If Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, I think he meant we ought not kill them.” Does this mean we all have to be strict pacifists? Why or why not?


If you’re honest with yourself, how often do you find yourself “murdering” someone in the sense that Jesus talks about? What do you think you could do to eliminate those attitudes from your heart?

IDOLS | 40 Days of Focus, Day 9

 

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
(Exodus 20:4-6)

The second of the 10 Commandments is a prohibition against crafting an image of a created thing in order to bow down to or worship it. Remember, the Hebrew people have just spent many generations in the land of Egypt which was overrun with idols and images. They were everywhere! If you go to Egypt even today and look at the ancient ruins, there are temples and idols and statues and carvings everywhere you look. They depict the pharaohs and the gods, retelling their collective stories in which they found their identity.

Some pharaohs ramped it up to eleven, like Ramses II who loved him some Ramses II. He built statues and shrines to himself right alongside those of Ra and Osiris and Horus.

“Stop doing that,” God says.

The question is, why?


I think there are many reasons God would give this command, but let’s look at two. First, it’s a little ridiculous to worship the Creator by ascribing to him an image of a created thing. Second, we already have an image of God walking around – human beings. We’ll get to that more in a moment.

I mentioned Isaiah yesterday. I want to draw your attention to what he actually says about the lunacy of idol worship. It’s a longer passage, but well worth it.

The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”
(Isaiah 44:12-20)

God, the Creator of everything, cannot be contained within or represented by anything we humans can make. God made cows – how are you going to represent him as a cow? God made the sun – how are you going to represent him as the sun? There certainly are things about God’s nature that we can learn from his creation (Romans 1), but any created image will fall short in fully representing God’s power and glory.

But it’s really difficult for us humans to focus on what we can’t see. We often need something on which to fix our gaze. That’s one of the attractions and also the dangers of idol worship. I heard a quote recently, but I cannot remember who originally wrote/said it: “The soul takes the shape of that which has its attention.” We are an increasingly image-based culture. We communicate through emoji, gifs, and memes. We don’t call or send text messages, we SnapChat and post to Instagram Stories. We don’t read books, we wait for the movie. We don’t read magazine articles, we watch YouTube videos.

Gathering around the TV to stream Netflix does not look much different in practice from gathering around the household shrine and telling the stories of the gods. Going to the movies does not look much different in practice than making a pilgrimage to the temple.

Living in an increasingly post-text, more image-based society leads us to think more strongly that “seeing is believing.” You can’t believe or know or experience that which you can’t see. So we create our own gods and form our new religions around celebrities, sports teams, and superheroes.

God says, “Stop it.”

For we live by faith, not by sight.
(2 Corinthians 5:7)

Second, God already has micro-images of himself walking around. Remember on Day Six God created mankind “in his image and likeness.” That makes me think about the time Jesus was at the Temple and some of the religious leaders wanted to trap him. They asked about paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus’ response is brilliant.

“Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
(Matthew 22:19-21)

First of all, they weren’t supposed to have that kind of coin in the Temple because of this Command Number Two. But then Jesus asked about the image and inscription. If Caesar wants to put his image and inscription on a coin to mark it as his, then give it back to him. But God has placed his image and inscription upon each person. You are not your own. So give the coin to Caesar, but give your life to God.

We don’t need to create images to bow down to and worship as a representation of God. God has already done that work for us! Not that we worship human beings, but we see each other and know God is present among us. John words it WAY better than I can.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
(1 John 4:11-12)

If the soul takes the shape of that which holds its attention, then let us set our attention on love. May the love we have for one another be the image of God among us. And may we together in love fix our eyes on Jesus, the ultimate representation of God with us.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
(Hebrews 1:3)

Do I think it’s wrong to have paintings, sculptures, and images adorning our church buildings? No. Art can certainly direct us toward God and connect with us on an emotional level. But we must always remember that the created thing is not to be worshiped or revered as “divine.”

______________________________________

Why do you think the visual arts are so effective at connecting with us emotionally?


Does your church building utilize art to draw people’s attention to God? Or is your worship space more bland and bare? Why? How effective is it?


Why do you think humans are so prone to worship a created thing rather than their unseen Creator?

IMAGE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 6

 

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1:24-25)

Day Four (sun, moon, and stars) was about filling Day 1 (light and dark). Day 5 (fish and birds) was about filling Day 2 (waters and sky). Finally, Day 6 (land animals) is about filling Day 3 (land and vegetation).

One thing I find interesting about Days 5 and 6 is that God uses creation to do the creating. “Let the waters teem with life” and “let the land produce living creatures.” Life comes from non-life. That’s a statement that has sparked a lot of scientific debate over the years. Scientists are still trying to discover just how that happened. Why is there life instead of non-life? I have no idea when it comes to the nuts and bolts of it, but it does seem that wherever God is, there is life. Once everything was in place on this planet, life was virtually inevitable.

Or as we see in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”

People often wonder about the seeming conflict between science and faith. Do we take Genesis 1 literally? If so, then what about evolution? What about dinosaurs?

Frankly, that’s not what the creation song is about. It’s not interested in the science of creation. It’s not even written with a scientific worldview in mind. It predates the scientific method. One more time for people in the back: Genesis is not about science. Science is concerned with discovering the how. Genesis is more interested in the who and why. The God of the Bible creates out of love and community, and his creation is imbibed with a sense of purpose and order – and it was good.

The writer of Genesis 1 depicts three basic groups of animals – domesticated livestock, wild untamed beasts, and reptiles. Add those to fish and birds, and that’s basically the way the ancients understood the natural world.

But then…

God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:26-31)

Another question scientists try to answer is What separates humans from animals? Technically, human beings are mammals, and we’re closely related on a DNA level to primates like chimpanzees and bonobos. But as far as we know, human beings are the only sentient, self-aware, conscious beings in the entire universe. Some would say that we’re no different than the non-human animals. I think the fact that we can make those kind of assertions proves that we are different.

Where does consciousness come from? Where does our sense of love and community and justice come from? Where does our morality come from?

I believe it has something to do with the very Image and Likeness of God embedded into each and every homo sapien on the planet. There is a little bit of God’s own nature inside each one of us. Forgetting or ignoring that fact has led to some of the greatest atrocities in history – persecution, genocide, hate crimes, slavery, human trafficking. When we dismiss the Imago Dei inside our brother or sister, we dehumanize them. Only when we dehumanize them in our minds can we justify violent actions against them.

Every living creature has the “breath of life” in it, but only humans bear the likeness of God. Thus we are his ambassadors and co-rulers. We are tasked with the creative process, ruling over and tending to the rest of creation just as God would do.

This is why, I believe, that Jesus says the greatest command in Scripture is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength – AND – to love your neighbor as yourself. Or as John would put it:

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
(1 John 4:20)

Love for God and love for others cannot be separated because God has created us in his own image. Or as Victor Hugo would write in his famous novel Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

 ________________________________

How would the world be different if we all acknowledged the Image of God in each other human being we encountered every day?

Why is it so difficult to remember that all people are created in God’s likeness?

What are some specific ways we can live out the mission God gave us?

Biblical Enneagram Types: TWOS

The Enneagram Type TWO is commonly known as the Helper. Twos have a need to be needed. Hospitality is their jam. They are always ready to play host or hostess at a moment’s notice. There’s always more room at the table with Twos.

Twos are, outwardly, very others-focused. Helpers tend to focus on the emotions and needs of the other people in their lives, often to the neglect of their own needs. Helpers are always wanting to make sure others are taken care of and can be hesitant to make their own needs and desires known. I emphasize the outwardness of their actions because Twos (like many numbers) live in a place of tension between their outward actions and their inward motivations.

Twos will help clear the table and wash the dishes at a friend’s house after the dinner party without being asked. But Twos, especially unhealthy Twos, can be resentful that no one else offered to join in. Twos are in that weird space of appearing humble but acting out of a sense of pride. They want to be needed, they want to help, but they can easily become bitter towards those who don’t help them.

Or to the other extreme, Twos can make themselves indispensable to someone they love and develop an unhealthy codependency. Twos can be enablers of bad behaviors in those they love because they so desperately need to be needed. If you are a Two or are in relationship with someone who is a Two, these are things to look out for.

But we all love the Twos in our lives. It’s no surprise to me that most women who are mothers identify, at least somewhat, as a Two. Mothers are the best example of Helpers in our every day lives. Moms are there for us no matter what. Moms want to make sure that we’ve gotten enough to eat, that our hair is combed, that our jersey is washed, and that our khakis aren’t wrinkled. This has been changing some over the past few decades as gender roles and household norms transform. More husbands/dads are picking up the load and not leaving everything to the wife/mother to do.

I don’t know if my mom is a Two, but when I read the description of what Helpers are like, I think of her and many other great women I know. This is even reflected in the language of Genesis 2 when God creates a “helper” for Adam, one who is suitable and compatible for him.

Do you know who else in the Bible is described as a Helper? God. Check out these descriptions of God:

Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.
(Deuteronomy 33:29)

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
(Psalm 10:14)

The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
(Psalm 118:7)

So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
(Hebrews 13:6)

Like all types, Twos have something special of God’s own character within them. Twos came “not to be served, but to serve.” Twos will drop what they’re doing and help you in a moment’s notice.

But because Twos struggle inwardly with pride, their helpfulness can often be tainted by ulterior motives, bitterness, and resentfulness.

The classic story of a Two is found in Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Notice a few things. Mary and Martha live together, but who opened their home to Jesus? Martha. Who was making all the preparations? Martha. Who refused to ask her sister for help and let her resentfulness bubble over into an angry outburst? Martha.

Martha, Martha, Martha…

Martha sounds like a classic Two in this story. She’s playing the welcoming, gracious hostess to Jesus and his disciples. There are things to clean and an entire meal to prepare. Martha is definitely up for the challenge, but she can’t do it all on her own. She needs her sister to help. Unfortunately, Mary is nowhere to be found.

Mary, probably a Four, is completely bailing on Martha in order to sit with the guys and listen to Jesus teach. So Martha tattles to Jesus and tries to make him tell Mary to help her out.

Twos are in the Heart Triad. Twos, Threes, and Fours are more image-conscious than the other numbers. For Twos, it’s important to make serving and helping look effortless. Twos are more likely to have magazine-ready center pieces on their dining tables. Twos want everyone to think that they are humble, selfless, and that they’ve got it all together. But the family members of Twos know the reality of the situation.

I would bet you money (if I were a betting man) that this wasn’t the first time Martha had had this “discussion” with Mary.

Twos want to feel appreciated, and they want their efforts to be noticed. They just have trouble making their needs known. Bitterness takes root and grows when needs and expectations are not clearly communicated.

Twos need to learn the lesson that Jesus taught Martha. Only one thing matters – sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from him. Jesus was a servant! Jesus was a helper! Jesus had a lot of Two in him. But Jesus taught us how to love with no strings attached.

In other words, what good is it if you have perfect table decorations but you miss out on the meal?

Serving is a gift (Romans 12:7). We all need Helpers in our lives. Some of my favorite people are Twos. We have much to learn from you and much to love about you. But we also need you to be real with us. We need you to let us help you. We need you to be open and honest about your feelings before you hold them all in and explode like Martha.

You have loved us and served us. Now let us return the favor. Sit down and take a load off.

__________________________________

If you are a Two, be sure to check out the song “Two” by Sleeping at Last

Why the Enneagram? pt. 2


In the previous post, I pointed to three fundamental truths that lay the foundation for working with the Enneagram. They are:

  1. Every person is created in the Image of God.
  2. Our highest calling is to love God with our entire being – body, heart, & mind.
  3. Our love for God is fulfilled in loving others AND loving ourselves.
Before you begin to build, you need to have a good base. Some of us may need to do a bit more foundation work before we begin. I believe that once we’ve got this foundation set, then we can begin the real work.
OUR TASKS

In my understanding, there are four main tasks that the Enneagram invites us to undergo. They are related to and flow out of the three fundamental truths. So if you’re ready to get to work on the Enneagram, here is what you can expect the process to look like.
1. Find Yourself

This is closely tied to the first truth, that we are all made in the Image of God. Some of us struggle with understanding who God made us to be. When I say “find yourself,” we may think that’s a task for high school and college students. We should have it all figured out by the time we’re young adults.
But have you ever stopped to think about who you are? If I asked you to introduce yourself, could you come up with anything to say that wasn’t related to your occupation, your age, your family relations, etc.? We tend to find our identity in our relationships, our jobs, our political beliefs, our religious practices, our hobbies and interests. But these are all peripheral to who we actually are at the core.
Have you ever noticed how God has a tendency to change people’s name in the Bible? Abram becomes Abraham. Jacob becomes Israel. Simon becomes Peter. Saul becomes Paul. Names mean something. God would often give someone a new name, taking their life from one path onto another path, or revealing who they were truly made to be.
Henri Nouwen famously laid out three lies of identity that we tend to believe: 1) I am what I do. 2) I am what I have. 3) I am what others say I am. If we try to find our identity in these lies, we will forever be wandering. But if we want to truly find ourselves, we must come to know the truth. Look at what Nouwen says in his book Life of the Beloved.

The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.

You are the beloved, chosen child of God, created in his Image, loved and accepted, created to do good works which God had planned for you long ago.

The first task of Enneagram work is to be honest with yourself about where you are and who you have become. The Enneagram, to quote Suzanne Stabile, “doesn’t put you in a box. It reveals what box you’re already in, and it shows you the way out.” We all have defense mechanisms and patterns of behavior that we fall back into unconsciously. The Enneagram helps bring those things to our awareness so we can “put off the old man” and become a “new creation” in Christ.

2. Love Yourself

I spent quite a bit of time talking about this point in the previous post, so I won’t go back over everything. But I want to reiterate the fact that God loves you and created your inmost being. Christ loves you and gave up his life for you. The Spirit loves you and lives inside you, bringing life and gifts.

If the triune God loves you this much, then shouldn’t you find reason to love yourself? God knows all your faults, all your failures, all your sin and brokenness. God knows it better than you do. And God loves you despite all that.

I find Paul’s words in Romans 7 extremely relatable.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
(Romans 7:24-25)

You may look back at your shortcomings and screwups and think How could anyone love me? But God looks at all that and (see point 1) says, You are my beloved child. How could I not love you?

Love yourself. Accept yourself. Forgive yourself. God says you’re worth it. The Enneagram can help you see your own worth and value. Before you ever begin to make a change, you are worthy of love.

3. Deny Yourself

This may seem like a contradiction to the point above, but it’s really just what happens when we stop buying into the lies of identity that Nouwen pointed out. We deny ourselves when we begin to believe 1) I am NOT what I do. 2) I am NOT what I have. 3) I am NOT what others say I am. After all, weren’t the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness all about identity? If you are the Son of God…do this miracle…have these kingdoms…get people talking about you. That’s why Jesus could then turn around and say this:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
(Luke 9:23-25)

Notice, he doesn’t say that you must deny yourself ______X_______. It’s not that you are denying yourself pleasures or wealth or power. Jesus doesn’t call you to deny yourself things. The call is to deny yourself, your very identity, what you believe makes you you.

This is where the mask comes off. This is where you realize that who you have been is not who you want to be. In psychological and Enneagram language this is called the “false self.” We all have this image we want others to see. We build up walls to keep people out and prevent them from getting too close. We’re afraid that if we unmask, then people won’t like what they see underneath.

This is probably the most painful part of the whole process. We must be willing to say, “I’m going to take off the mask and get rid of my false self – even if it kills me. Even if my whole little world begins to unravel, it’s worth it. Living into my true identity as God’s beloved child is better than living under the lies of a fake identity.”

4. Transform Yourself

The bad news about the transformation process is that no one can do it for you. Even God can’t force you to change. You can only do the work for yourself.

The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. God will be with you every step of the way.

If you’ve ever read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, you understand this idea. The Pilgrim had a guide leading him through all the challenges along the journey, but the Pilgrim had to complete and overcome the challenges on his own. So it is with Enneagram work. No one can do the work for you. No one can force you to change or cause transformation in your life.

Paul describes the process at the beginning of Romans 12.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:1-2)

Self-denial leads to transformation. And notice how we are transformed – by the renewing of our minds. When we undergo these tasks – finding, loving, denying, and transforming – we will begin to think differently about ourselves, God, others, and the world.

Start Here

If you are ready to begin the journey of transformation via the Enneagram, please check out my list of resources. Whether you’re a complete beginner wanting to get started or you’ve been at it for a while and want to go deeper, these resources can help you along the way. They have personally helped me to get in tune with myself and God. I hope they will be a blessing to you, too.

11 Great Enneagram Resources

Why the Enneagram? pt. 1

I’ve shared some thoughts on the Enneagram recently. I know it’s growing in popularity, especially among certain Christian circles. I think it’s a helpful tool, and can give you a lot of insight into your own personality and that of others. But why even bother at all? Isn’t it just like any other personality quiz or horoscopes? Why should anyone be interested in the Enneagram unless all your friends are doing it and you want to talk about your number at the next dinner party?

First of all, if that’s all you want to get out of it, then seriously don’t bother.

However, if you’re ready to go on a serious journey of self-discovery and transformation, then the Enneagram (IMHO) is the best tool to help with that process.

You may be on the fence about it. So let me lay out what I believe the be the biblical foundation for this transformation process and why the Enneagram can help with it.

THREE BIG TRUTHS

Lets begin with three fundamental truths:

1. Every person is created in the Image of God.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

Every single calorie-consuming, oxygen-processing, hemoglobin-pumping human is made in the Image of God the creator. Your new neighbors from some country in Central America you can never quite remember? Image of God. Your in-laws with whom you’d rather not spend more time with than necessary? Image of God. That awful customer who is berating you for something you had no control over? Image of God. Your boss who is placing unrealistic expectations on you? Image of God. The mass shooter? The corrupt politician? The strung-out hooker on the corner? Image. Of. God.

So what does this mean? Each person is worthy of respect. Each person needs to love and to be loved. Each person has the capacity for great things. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood. In other words, if you can hit them and make them bleed, then they are not your enemy. They are a potential brother or sister in Christ.

Yes, some people are simply unbearable to be around. But so are you sometimes. The fact that we are created in God’s image and likeness means that each person has some amount of good in them that’s worth discovering.

But let’s be honest. Sometimes the hardest person to see the good within is…ourselves. It’s easy for us to lose sight of the God-Image within ourselves. That’s when we become fearful, worrisome, anxious, or angry. That’s when we become filled with shame or regret or envy. The Enneagram helps us to rediscover the Image of God within others and, more importantly, within ourselves.

2. Our highest calling is to love God with our entire being – body, heart, and mind.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

This passage is known as The Shema, from the Hebrew word “hear” or “listen.” When asked what the greatest command in Scripture is, Jesus quotes  The Shema. The greatest command, the highest calling in all the Bible is to love God with our entire being. We must love God with our heart (our emotional center), with all our soul (our intellect), and with all our strength (our physical bodies).

In Enneagram language we see this in the triads – Head, Heart, Body – or Feeling, Thinking, Doing. Each one of us is drawn to one of these expressions more than the others as our way of relating to God.

If we are head people, then we will be really into Bible studies. We will want to know and learn as much as possible about the Bible, history, theology, etc. We want our worship songs to be biblically accurate. We want the preaching to teach us something new. We want to sit and talk for hours about systematic theology.

If we are heart people, then we want worship to be passionate and full of emotions. We want to connect on a deep level with the music and the prayers. We will want more creative, artistic forms of expression in worship. Maybe tears. We want a preacher who is emotive and expressive and deeply moving. We want to be inspired deep in our souls.

If we’re body people, then we’re looking at the clock hoping the preacher doesn’t get too long winded because we’ve got things to do. We’d rather be out serving, helping, making a difference. We feel most connected with God when we’re actually doing the things we’ve heard about in church. We want to experience God in action. Enough studying. Enough sappy worship songs. Let’s get going!

Each of us will be drawn to one of these more than the other. We will be dominant in thinking, feeling, or doing, and we will also be regressive in one of the remaining areas. The Enneagram helps us understand which is our dominant center and which is our regressive center. The goal is to bring all three into balance or rhythm so that we can truly love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength.

3. Our love for God is fulfilled in loving others AND loving ourselves.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

After stating the Shema as the “first and greatest” command, Jesus then said there was a second command like it. He then quotes from the passage above, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s not even that this is the second place command and the Shema is first place. It’s more like “Command 1.A and Command 1.B.” We show our love for God by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

These verses back up this point:

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

If we claim to love God, then we must show it by loving others. It’s as plain as that. We get it. That’s what we’re taught. Love God. Love others. That’s the life of a disciple in a nutshell, right?

But we skip over the last part of Command 1.B – Love your neighbor as yourself. We don’t tend to emphasize self-love that much. Admittedly, we do run the risk of becoming self-absorbed if we emphasize self-love and self-care too much. But if we don’t emphasize it at all, then we can become self-loathing. We can become our own worst critics.

I can almost guarantee that you speak more harshly to yourself than you ever would to your best friend or your significant other. You would never call your girlfriend fat (at least I hope!). You would never call your spouse a worthless moron. You would never call your child a failure for missing a couple questions on their test. Yet we say these things and worse (!) to ourselves every day.

We need to develop a sense of love and compassion for ourselves, too. We need to show mercy and forgiveness to ourselves, too. We cannot pour from an empty vessel. We cannot truly love others if we are not loving and accepting of ourselves, who God made us to be.

Paul talks about the need for self-love in his instructions to husbands and wives:

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church (Ephesians 5:28-29)

The Enneagram is a tool for developing empathy and compassion for others and for yourself. It will reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly about you. You will find things you never even knew were there. But the Enneagram will help you see that for every shadow there is a light, for every bit of ugliness there is beauty, for every fault there is a gift. The worst part about you and the best part about you are often two sides of the same coin. And that coin bears God’s image and likeness.

MORE ABOUT THE ENNEAGRAM:
11 Great Enneagram Resources
3 Benefits of the Enneagram

The Fear of Insignificance | My Life As A THREE

In his book The Sacred Enneagram, Chris Heuertz explains it this way:

Their quietly competitive nature is rooted in their inner drive to prove to themselves that they are valuable. This inner drive is perpetuated by the Basic Fear of the Three, that somehow they are hopelessly worthless and characteristically base.

Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile frame it this way in The Road Back to You:

Once in a blue moon when Threes slow down long enough to reflect on their lives, they might feel like they’re a fraud. I wear a thousand masks, but which is the authentic me? When this flash of insight comes to them it surfaces a Three’s worst fear: What if there’s no one behind the image? What if I’m no more than an empty suit?

The Basic Need for Threes is success, whatever that looks like to us. You would think that would make failure the corresponding Fear of the Three. And while we Threes try to avoid *public* failure at all costs, I’m not really that afraid of failure. If I try something and it doesn’t work, then I try something else. Threes are adaptable like that.

The problem with failure, though, is that it’s so closely tied to our own sense of self-worth. We avoid failure because we fear being viewed as not valuable, worthless, useless, insignificant. If I’m going to bust my tail working, performing, achieving, sacrificing, doing…I want to know that it will all be worth it in the end.

What if I’m no more than an empty suit?


THE SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE

Again, I can’t speak for all Threes, I can only share my own experience. But I think I can say this with confidence: Being a Three pastor is so hard!

You would think that pastoring would be great for Threes. We get to be up in front leading. Our job is very performative. We get the praise and respect of a lot of people. We get to change masks constantly and almost no one knows. (I’ll get to the mask-wearing bit in a later post.)

While all those things are true, it can also be incredibly frustrating work. There is no end to ministry. I can never say that I’m done or that I’ve accomplished everything I want to. There is often very little guidance and few guidelines. And worst of all, there is no good, clear measure of success for a pastor.

Is success defined by attendance numbers? Baptisms? Giving? What happens when the numbers begin to drop? Even if it’s not our fault, we can’t help but take these things personally – because our identity is so closely tied to what we do.

And to make matters worse, the 21st Century American culture doesn’t value the leadership of pastors (especially youth pastors!) like we used to. Church is optional, even for most Christians. The job of pastoring is getting harder and harder with less and less payoff. That’s a terrible way of viewing the work, but it’s how Threes, especially, see the world.

So as a minister, I’ve found that I can’t stake my sense of significance solely within the framework of traditional church. If I want to make an impact, I have to be involved in other aspects of community life. That’s why you won’t find me in the office as much as you used to. I get the feeling that I’m not the only minister who feels this way.

MORE THAN USELESS

Where have I been searching for significance?

I’ve been substitute teaching at the high school and junior high in town. I’ve been getting involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at both schools. I hold leadership positions in both the Mitchell Area Ministerial Association and the Lawrence County Youth Network. There is a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition that has started up recently that I’m involved with. I’m getting my oldest son involved in Scouts and Soccer programs.

I write blog posts.

As I type all this out I realize that significance is another one of those intangibles. That’s the paradox of the Three. We want to feel significant so badly that we exchange significance for busyness in order to feel like we’re somehow gaining significance.

The “wounding message” Threes received in childhood is that we are loved and valued for what we do. Threes don’t crave success. We crave the feelings love and significance that comes from it. This sets us on an endless cycle to do more in order to feel more valuable. Believe it or not, Threes really do have a hard time accepting that we are loved no matter what we do. We all need to have a moment of realization that we have intrinsic worth and value whether we “succeed” or not.

It took me a long time to come to grips with this. And still most days I have a hard time remembering it. And this is why one of the best things that can happen to a Three is to experience that which we strive so hard to avoid: public failure. For many Threes, myself included, the only thing that will finally and fully convince us of our own value is failing publicly in a big way – and still receiving love and acceptance from those closest to us.

When I fail and think What if I’m no more than an empty suit? God is there to remind me that I am his beloved child. That’s why this song from Relient K has been so helpful to me over the years.

If you are a Three, what has been your experience with finding significance? Do you struggle with earning love and worth? Remember that you are God’s beloved, not because of anything you’ve done but because of who God is.

Jonah: Wake Up, Idiot!

Jonah runs from God.

We should all realize the ridiculousness of this decision. Unfortunately, we all too often find ourselves in the same boat (pun intended).


But look what happens next.

But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.” (Jonah 1:4-6)

The reaction of the sailors is telling. They knew this storm was not natural. It takes them completely by surprise and with such a ferocity that it can only be divine in origin – a punishment from the gods upon someone aboard the boat.

We have information that the sailors don’t. Jonah has information the sailors don’t. This whole section is just fascinating. I want to make a few key observations about the story so far as the action picks up. The gentile, pagan sailors are set in direct contrast to the prophet of YHWH.

OUR RESPONSE TO TRAGEDY

The storm hits. The ship threatens to break up. The sailors begin throwing the cargo (their livelihood, the very thing that makes this whole mission economically viable) into the sea, and they begin to cry out to their gods. Not just “thoughts and prayers,” but prayer accompanied by action. These gentile idol-worshipers demonstrate what James means when he says “faith without works is dead.” It also reminds me of something St. Augustine said: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

When tragedy strikes, by all means PRAY! But then do something about it.

Jonah did neither. He was down in the boat below deck. The Hebrew phrase may even indicate that he had holed up somewhere in the very cargo bay being emptied out by the sailors, and that’s how he was discovered. But he wasn’t just hiding. He was in a deep sleep. Not praying, not acting, not helping.

OUR REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE

The sailors did everything they could to save the lives of everyone on board. They dumped the cargo. They cried out to their gods. They cast lots to discover the responsible party. And even when Jonah was found out and told them to toss him overboard, they still tried to save his life and row back to land. Saving human life was more important to them than the cargo. More than that, **and really listen to this** saving human life was more important to them than following the orders of God’s prophet! Even though the prophet of YHWH was telling them to let him drown, they didn’t want to accept that course of action. Even though Jonah was the one responsible for this tragedy, the sailors still thought his life was worth saving.

Jonah, on the other hand, had no regard for human life. In his opinion, it would be better if the whole ship sank and everyone drowned than to go to Nineveh and possibly save the Assyrians from disaster. By not caring what happened aboard the boat, Jonah was essentially taking responsibility for his own death, the deaths of all the men on board, and the deaths of thousands of Ninevites.

OUR WILLINGNESS TO BE CRITIQUED BY THE WORLD

The sailors cried out to their gods. They did everything within their power to save the lives off all their shipmates. So when they discovered Jonah asleep below deck, the captain was well within his rights to call the prophet to task. “Get up! Call…” These are the very first words that came to Jonah from YHWH. Now they are being repeated verbatim by the pagan ship captain.

The captain was absolutely right to criticize Jonah’s laziness and lack of concern. The captain was absolutely right to urge Jonah, the prophet of God, to call out to God. But I don’t think Jonah appreciated being called out like that. Why? Because he Still. Doesn’t. Pray. Jonah stubbornly refuses to lift a finger or a prayer to help anyone else.

When the world see Christians acting un-Christ-like, they have every right to call us out on it. Non-believers may not know as much about the Bible or our faith as we do, but most of them know that whole “Love God, and love your neighbor” thing. That’s kind of a big deal. If Christians are failing to fulfill the greatest commands in the whole Bible, then we should be criticized for it. If we are willingly “falling asleep” to the tragedies and hardships of our neighbors, we deserve to be called out. If we can’t be bothered to seek the good of people who are different from us, then the world has every right to ridicule us and point out our hypocrisy.

When we don’t denounce nationalism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, classism, sexism, and every other kind of discrimination, we deserve every bit of  finger pointing we get from the world. Maybe, just maybe, that will wake us up to action and love.

OUR LOVE FOR AND RELIANCE ON “THE OTHER”

The sailors didn’t really care which god caused this storm. They didn’t really care who worshiped whom or who was from where. The important thing to them was that they were all in the same boat. If everyone doesn’t work together, then they could all die. What a metaphor for life.

They sailors didn’t let their religion, as it were, keep them from banding together to save everyone. The same could not be said for Jonah. He used his religious and civil convictions as a justification for not helping others – both the Ninevites and the pagan sailors.

When we hear “Love your neighbor as yourself,” we often interpret that how Jonah and his fellow Israelites did. Your neighbors are those closest to you – physically, socially, relationally, and religiously. But Jesus completely reinterprets this command. In Luke 10 a man asks the question that’s on all of our minds, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ brilliant answer literally changed history. Jesus knew that in asking “Who is my neighbor?” the man really wants to know “Who isn’t my neighbor.” If we define the neighbor, then there will always be people who fall outside that definition.

So Jesus told a story about a man who was ambushed by robbers, stripped of his money and clothing, and left for dead on the side of the road. In other words, here was a man devoid of any identifying markers. You couldn’t tell how rich he was, where he came from, what ethnicity he was, what language he spoke, or anything else. The priest and the Levite passed by on the other side, refusing to help the man. They, like Jonah, used their religious obligations as an excuse for not helping. But the Samaritan came along, saw a man in need, and without a second thought stopped to help. The man he helped was Jewish. It makes me wonder, If the man had been conscious, would he have accepted help from the Samaritan?


We may be willing to help and even love people who are different from us – homeless or Muslim or LGBTQ or Democrat or undocumented immigrant, etc. But are we willing to accept love and help from those same people?

We can extend love, but can we receive it?

I think deep down Jonah resented the fact that he had to rely on the very people he would rather avoid. Jonah doesn’t care about these sailors. It’s not that he actively hates them like he does the Assyrians. He just has no obligation or commitment to them whatsoever. If one of them was injured on the side of the road, Jonah would probably pass by on the other side. But the sailors care about Jonah. The sailors want to save his life. The sailors would stop to help Jonah if he were the man in Jesus’ story.

It’s an attitude of supremacy to be willing to extend help to someone you consider “lesser” but to be unwilling to receive help from those same people.

WAKE UP!

Jonah had to be awakened to the plight of the ship and the crew. As long as he remained unaware of the problem he could plead ignorance. His lack of concern or action was somewhat understandable. But as soon as he was awake and aware of the situation, Jonah had an obligation to act.

Christians, many of us need to wake up. We need the world to shout us awake to the disaster befalling much of the world. We need to wake up to the rates of depression and suicide among LGBTQ teenagers. We need to wake up to the abject poverty, evil, and governmental corruption driving Central American families from their homes to seek asylum north of the border. We need to wake up to the tyrannical rule of dictators around the world. We need to wake up to the rise carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. We need to wake up to the opioid crisis plaguing the Midwest and the sheer number of orphans being left in its wake. We need to wake up to the dangers of religious nationalism. We need to wake up to the experience of People of Color in our country.

After all, we’re all in the same boat.

“How can you sleep at a time like this? Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”

________________________________
This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Jonah. Click the links below to view other posts.
Jonah: Bravely Ran Away!
Jonah: Nope
Jonah: World’s Worst Prophet