Friday, May 8, 2015

Blind Spots

I think I am right…on most everything…most of the time (if not all the time).  However, the Scriptures coupled with a lot of experience are beginning to convince me that this might not be 100% accurate.  I am willing to make a concession that on rare occasions I might be ever-so-slightly mistaken on things of the most trivial nature.  Of course, by “rare” I mean “often” and by “ever-so-slightly mistaken” I mean “plumb wrong” and by “most trivial” I mean “some of the most important things there are.”

I have blind spots.  I have ways that I think and ways that I look at things and ways that I earnestly believe that things should be.  And, for the longest, if someone dared to think differently from me on these things, my attitude was, “Bless their hearts.  I’ll pray for them.  Maybe the Lord will grant them repentance so that they can understand and believe and think just like me.”  I am on the mend from that attitude.  I still have to guard against it and still slip into it far too often, but I am on the mend.  I have always had blind spots in my thinking.  I have just come to the point where I am willing to admit it and act as if this were true, because it is!

I might have been an extreme example.  But, if we go by the internet comments sections, then maybe not so much.  The “I am right, you are wrong” virus afflicts humans pretty indiscriminately, Christians included.  Colin Hansen has offered a short book that encourages readers to recognize our own blind spots and to be gracious towards those of others. 

Hansen wants us to “see our differences as opportunity.”  He argues that, “(b)ecause of these blind spots, neither you nor I see everything clearly. We need each other.”  He groups Christians into one of three camps; the compassionate, the courageous, and the commissioned.  This isn’t an exhaustive list of categories and there is considerable cross-over, but the distinctions made are accurate and helpful.  Hansen shows how these groups can end up in conflict, especially when their agendas do not line up and especially when people become “sole-issue Christians.” 

While there is still much to be concerned about, we do not have to be as concerned with a person who is a “single-issue Christian” as we are with someone who is an “only-issue Christian.”  A single-issue Christian has a passion and is utterly focused on it (pro-life, street-evangelism, homeless ministry, etc…) A sole-issue Christian is like a single-issue Christian, except for one key difference.  This person’s issue of interest is the only issue.  And that is true not just for them, but also for you.  If you oppose their issue, either actively or simply by it not being your only issue, then you are an enemy.  And you are not just an enemy of them, you are in sin.  You are opposing God.  Single-issue Christians get much done for their cause.  Sole-issue Christians get much done in dividing the Body.     
Hansen writes to help us see our own blind spots, and he writes to keep us from devolving into sole-issue Christians.  He shows that “unless we can both step outside ourselves to hear our arguments from another vantage point, we won’t enjoy church unity and an effective gospel witness in the world.”  Hansen shows how the Body of Christ needs all these different types of Christians and how we keep each other accountable and balanced.

Hansen is writing to Christians.  He recognizes that we love the Lord.  He knows that we, even in our blindest of moments, are in some sense operating out of a desire to honor God--as misguided as it might be.  Hansen points out that we often have the tendency to emphasize one aspect of Christ over others, and then use that to hurt the ones we are called to love the most.  “We often seize on one aspect of (Christ’s) character and ministry and brandish it as a weapon against other believers. And we rope our partial Jesus into some of the nastiest conflicts.”

Hansen goes beyond diagnosing.  There is much practical wisdom scattered throughout the book, but I especially enjoy his admonition to all of us towards the end.  Hansen sees one main solution to these problems, and it is being united to and abiding in Christ.

Abiding in Christ is the best defense against the blind spots that destroy our joy in following Jesus and set us against other believers with different gifts and callings. Abiding in Christ will protect you from growing discouraged and getting sidetracked in trying to obey Jesus’s commandments. Some people you try to love will reject you because they have rejected him. Some Christians and churches suffering from blind spots will fault you for not caving to their pressure. You see this discord where the world presses for conformity from the church. Western culture’s idol of sexuality tempts churches to respond in limited, even self-destructive ways when beset by blind spots. Some withdraw in fear from the world and call it courage. Or they mute the clear teaching of Scripture and the call to discipleship and call it compassion. Or they ignore the problem altogether for the sake of false unity and call it obedience to the Great Commission.

Abiding in Christ does not allow us to veer off in only one of these directions. Jesus intends for us to follow him down a path that only he knows. The Spirit is our guide, because Jesus sent him to us as a witness (vv. 26–27). As we follow the teaching of the apostles who walked and talked with Jesus, we can hear clearly the voice of Jesus calling us through the cacophony of the world. (pg 111)

Blind Spots is a necessary book.  It addresses a persistent and pernicious issue, but it is not the answer.  We need more than 100+ pages from Collin Hansen, as good as they might be.  We need discussions and worship and cooperation and grace.  And we need a lot of those and more.  But, Blind Spots is a great little primer on a great big issue and, hopefully it will encourage us all to love our neighbor in the church down the road just a bit more.

I received a review copy from the publisher.