Discernment, Acceptance, and the Dangers of Refinement

As my wife and I uncorked a bottle of new Cabernet, my 8-year-old son looked on with great curiosity and interest.  Since it was named after one of his favorite superheroes (Ghost Rider), he thought he should try some for himself.  Never wanting to squash his curiosity and desire to try new things, we poured out a splash for him to taste.  As he drank, a look of horror washed over his young face, and he quickly searched for the nearest sink.  After several minutes of spitting and washing his mouth out, he declared that the wine was awful, as my wife and I enjoyed every sip.  Most of us probably have a similar story when we were younger, as wine, beer, coffee, whatever, is a mostly acquired taste.  Our primary gastrointestinal instincts with these items don’t usually align with a desire to consume.  Our tongues are not used to these new flavors, but over time, we grow to appreciate, like, and even enjoy most of them.  Also over time, and with greater experience, our tastes mature and become refined.  What was at first bitter or strange now has a range of familiarity, developing into an array of quality and taste.  Our discerning tongues then know the difference between what works for us and what doesn’t.  When I first became a Christian, I involved myself in everything I could that was considered Christian.  Deeply committing to emotional and involved worship, I was interested in feeling everything.  Yet with time and experience, the initial desire for being swept up emotionally dissipated and a more discerning sense grew from the variety of Christian experiences I had, developing a desire for more intellectual involvement.  I desired a quieter approach that contained personal reflection, private contemplation, and confessional writing.  With a more refined faith, these newer ways furthered my walk with Him as the older ways just weren’t doing it for me anymore.  My more perceptive faith learned to search and test out various forms of Christian study and growth and decided upon what worked best for me.  Proverbs 2.3-5 models this approach to our faith, encouraging us to be forever seeking and refining: “Indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”  Thus, it is not so much the final product, decision, or discernment that we have come to or developed, but instead the need to experience and refine our faith in whatever fashion that individually works best for us.  So, were my original more emotion-based ways of faith exploration bad or wrong?  Of course not!  There are still many people today who are refined in their faith and are involved in a more emotional approach to God.  Their faith increases tremendously with each new praise experience or spiritual intervention.  It works for them; it just doesn’t work for me.  There’s nothing wrong with them and nothing wrong with me.  We’ve just each grown in separate but wonderful directions. For those who have matured in their faiths, one of the dangers of experience is the temptation to look down on and judge harshly practices they have grown away from, and to now view them as pointless and wastes of time.  But who are we to judge?  If it helps others grow closer to Christ, then it must be good.  Just because it doesn’t work for you, that fact doesn’t make it wrong.  We must allow for variety when it comes to growing in Him and avoid judgement of other’s Christian walk, or we risk splintering the body.  We should instead further His kingdom through unity, embracing others and their diverse ways.  Whereas judgement and rejection fatally afflict the body, acceptance and understanding bring healing to it, uniting us as one in Him.  Amen.

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