I was in a church meeting recently and in the Q & A time after the sermon someone versed a very strong set of opinions. But they were merely opinions because they were grounded solely in their own experience without reference to any of the classic sources of spiritual authority i.e. scripture, tradition, reason. Opinions are ever-present.
In the Bible study I lead I sometimes have to steer the guys clear of passionately debating political opinions, like whether climate change is real. So much of life is consumed by useless controversy which in the end makes no real difference, and certainly has nothing to do with the kingdom of God.
Most of the book of Job is a pretty boring dialogue between Job and his “friends” over who is in the right and who is in the wrong. It’s a conflict of mere opinions (Job chapter 32) until God turns up and settles the issues decisively. I don’t want my life to be opinionated, but sadly that’s how many people see Christianity, and often with reasons based on bad experiences.
A tremendously helpful scripture about why Jesus was free from both the influence of opinion and giving the same comes at the beginning of his controversies at the Temple with his Jewish opponents.
They approach him saying, ““Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” (Matthew chapter 22 verse 16). Literally, they say Jesus “does not look at the face of people”. We all look at how people are responding to what we say or read their facial expressions as they speak. This is natural from childhood on, but it gives “the face of man” undeserved authority.
Jesus was totally different from us in this respect because he always had access to heavenly things (John chapter 3 verse 13). Most importantly, he always knew that the countenance of the Father towards him was one of love, joy and peace. Which such a living presence there was no reason for Jesus to be swayed in any way by what human beings thought.
He was completely unfashionable and didn’t care about human opinions; just as long as through him the face of the Father could be revealed to others (John chapter 14 verse 9). As such Jesus never reacted to anyone’s opinions; he was always Lord of every interaction.
Where are you Looking?
Over the 4+ decades of Christian I’ve seen many fads and fancies blow through the Church; people are swayed by the latest popular opinion (Ephesians chapter 4 verse 14). It’s “only human” to want to be on the winning side, but seeking human approval is destructive because it is an act of idolatry.
Christ warned us against such things, “No wonder you can’t believe!” said Jesus, “For you gladly honour each other, but you don’t care about the honour that comes from the one who alone is God.” (John chapter 5 verse 44). The problem most of us face in our nice churches and civil society is that we haven’t had enough rejection to get past caring about the opinions of others towards us.
Paul was categorical, “From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.” (Galatians chapter 6 verse 17). Anyone who’s truly suffered for Jesus can’t be superficial enough to be affected by the opinions of others. Needing nothing from anyone they don’t need to prove anything to anyone (1 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 3-5).
There’s a wonderful inner freedom and peace of mind when we grow beyond throwing our opinions against those of others. Or, looking for approval. If we ask help from Jesus, who when he was crucified saw no look of approval on any human face, he can teach us to pay regard exclusively to the face of God. Such a singularity of focus brings inexpressible contentment.
More than this, it effortlessly brings the respect of others so many of us so desperately seek. “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians chapter 15 verse 57)
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.
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