I hope you will accept a New Year's revolution in lieu of a New Year's resolution. I want to share one of the most helpful things I learned in 2007, which will get a workout from me in 2008, and for the duration. It concerns liberation from the fallacy of 100 percent.
Let me explain that there has long been a troubling gap between my theology and my life. The Bible just doesn't reach where the rubber meets the road. It says I am given "all things I need for life and godliness," but my opinion has been that I am given only "some things." I find in Scripture general principles like "love your neighbor," "be slow to speak," and "do not cast pearls to swine."
General principles are fine if you live in a general world. But I live in an insistently specific world where the issues are:
"Should I take this job?" "Should I marry this man?" "Should I skip writing today to be with my Mom?" "Should I let Calvin learn on the stick shift?" "Christian school or homeschool?" "Milk without the bovine growth hormones and antibiotics at $4.19/half gallon, or with the undesirables at $1.95/half gallon?"
"Should I have that neighborhood open house hoping to 'sow seeds'-and trust God with the money?" "How many missionaries do I have time to pray for?" "Should I continue to drag to church a 14-year-old who is hostile to the gospel?" (The case for "yes" is that it is at least exposure to the gospel; the case for "no" is that repeated rejections of the gospel heap judgment.)
For these and about 50 questions a day, I feel I need more information in order to proceed with certainty. I have become weary of doing just about everything I do with no rock-solid certainty of its rightness. In fact, if truth be told, the state of affairs induces paralysis of action and a low-grade depression.
In October I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Vern Poythress of Westminster Seminary. He gave me two delicious hours and we ended up talking about the Holy Spirit. I was sharing with him a wonderful insight of women's Bible teacher Beth Moore, in which she compared the work of the Spirit in us-His "resonating" with our spirit (Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 2)-to the resonating of all the "C" strings of a piano when middle "C" is struck.
"Many times the resonance of the Spirit is thought of as being passive," said Dr. Poythress, "but He calls on us to be creative because He is sovereign. . . . A trust in God says, 'I'm going to venture on this. I know my motives are not perfect but I'm going to try it because I know God loves me.'" The Spirit in us gives us "freedom of exploration."
That's it, brothers and sisters, the insight that set me free-that bridged my gap between the Bible and life.
The Bible is not a Middle Ages casuistry book that attempts to cover every conceivable ethical situation. Moreover, there are "disputable matters," unclear matters, in the Christian life (Romans 14:1). God could clear them up with a word if He wanted to, but He chooses not to. And so our decisions are not always wrought with 100 percent certainty. And that's OK.
I had been laboring under a fallacy-the fallacy of 100 percent certainty. I am certain that Jesus loves me, but I do not possess the same order of certainty that He wants me to have a Mercedes.
I am thinking that if I (1) investigate a matter thoroughly and (2) inquire of the Lord for guidance, then even though a postcard doesn't drop from heaven with an unequivocal answer, I can move forward with a spiritual commodity that is more true to the real world than "certainty"-"confidence."
Confidence that God loves me. Confidence that His Spirit lives in me. Confidence that if I make a mistake His arms will be there to catch this frail saint and put her back on righteous paths, for His name's sake. This new year and the next.