It was a facebook post about my willingness to risk being wrong about God that triggered an immediate response from well meaning–though rather paternalistic sounding–friends of mine cautioning me to think about what I was saying. Truth be told, I wasn’t really offended and I don’t even blame them. I understand exactly where they are coming from. I find myself in that space often. If we don’t have certainty in our beliefs then what else is there? Because of this we must stand firm in our belief without budging for anyone or anything! Anything less would be conforming to this world and divorcing myself from God’s Kingdom. Except…God doesn’t seem to support that theory or reward the tenacity to defend one’s belief system above all else–at least not in the Bible.
A few biblical examples come to mind, but an example shared by a friend recently describing his own disorienting experience in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement is a great place to sit and listen.
In Acts 10, Peter’s belief system is the only thing standing between him and God’s invitation. He goes onto the roof to pray, falls into a trance, and is invited to kill and eat food offered by God. The only problem? These animals were unclean. This tends to get lost in our society, but for Peter to kill and eat those animals would have been the equivalent of him spitting in the face of his deeply held beliefs, and even God. It would have felt like nothing short of a complete betrayal of all he holds sacred.
Immediately after this dream, some men arrive to invite Peter to dine with Cornelius–a Gentile Centurion. The spirit simply tells Peter–who is still disoriented from the food vision–to go wherever the guests downstairs invite him to go, because they have been sent by the Spirit. Peter obeys, goes to Cornelius’ home the next day, and has a truly transformational experience, because he trusted God enough to forsake another deeply held belief–that he should never associate with or visit a Gentile.
Perhaps because this story ties into Peter’s Jewish belief system most Christians simply skim over this absolutely earth shattering–and extremely scary–example of how God invites people to participate in what He/She is doing. But can you imagine how this story would have gone if Peter had taken a firm stance on his beliefs? He probably would have assumed that his visions were temptations from the evil one trying to get him to forsake the God he loved and worshiped. He would have totally missed out on a truly significant moment of transformation!
Peter–albeit reluctantly–allowed his beliefs to take a back seat to what he was experiencing, and his consequence was transformation. I believe that God is still offering us those “Tapestry Moments” that completely shatter our dogmatic belief system in favor of drawing nearer to those who our beliefs keep at a distance. Unfortunately, I think too many of us are terrified of what would happen if we listen to that still small voice.
It is much safer to hold firm to an established belief system that offers certainty than to accept God’s crazy invitation to forsake your deeply held beliefs and then blindly trust that the guests in your house are leading you somewhere you need to go. And yet, that is exactly how God seems to prefer inviting us into transformation. Imagine how much everything would change if we accepted that invitation!