Suppose you want to prepare to come into the house of a man you’ve adored from afar, a man who all your life you’ve believed to enjoy bird hunting and collecting postage stamps.
Because you know you will meet him someday, you want to know as much about what he likes. These are his defining characteristics, after all — from what could you better discern truths about his character?
Even better, with effort and a fair amount of luck, you find the perfect gift — a sheet of rare 9-cent stamps showing mid-Atlantic waterfowl migration. Having deduced something about his sense of humor, you think he’d especially appreciate the printer’s error. How else would he see the Canadian Goose fly north for the winter?
Here’s the trouble: You flavor who he is based on baggage you don’t realize you have. You miss the otherwise obvious clues that show he is instead a fan of the NES game Duck Hunt and rubber line date stamps.
When you meet and this folly is revealed, our gracious host accepts your present and loves you all the more for your effort, but it’s still a major missed opportunity. Knowing you as he does, his relationship with you could not be better; your relationship with him must basically start from scratch. His use of Forever postage snaps into focus, and it dawns on you when an orange gun makes sense.
Having a relationship with a refined man of the wild is different than a relationship with a man who’s something of a bookish gamer. Just so, our relationship with Christ, which is itself vital even independent of our justification, relies on as true an understanding about Him as we can muster. And, if we are to give him ourselves, it is vital to have the right idea about who he wants us to be.
Lest this be confused for saying what it doesn’t, I make the following limited and specific points with this illustration.
- This is high-stakes, because
- Truth about God matters a lot,
- Even in this life, and
- Even if we only want a relationship with Him.
- Moreover, we tend to subconsciously impose preconceptions.
To my mind, this adds up to: Should we rely totally on subjective interpretations, i.e. “bosom burning,” we could be pretty fogged in. Because it is a high-stakes game, we shouldn’t take that chance.
Unless we come as a mythical tabula rasa — advocating that is itself baggage, for it supposes we are supposed to bring nothing — some objective authority is necessary for more members than the odd flukes to have the best relationship with Christ.