There have been a lot of things that have brought these sort of thoughts to mind.I recently heard a police officer bemoaning the culture after yelling at several people who did not understand the traffic directions he had given. He said, "We live in a society in which people want to be told what to do, but don't want to think about what they can do." I thought this was an astute observation, one which applies to almost every aspect of life. We want to be told how we should dress, how we should eat, and what movies we should watch. We are always looking for opinions, we are always looking to others. And yet we are looking to others in order to further ourselves. We want to know what the critics and our friends are saying so that we can show how sheik we are. But does that really matter? Do the things people tell us we should do get us anywhere? Where will we end up if all of us follow the crowd? Are we headed for a cliff? Like lemmings, will we leap off when everyone around us is? I hope not.
Now, I'm not trying to tell you to go do whatever you want. Social mores are there for a reason. I learned this a couple of years ago. (The semester before this blog started.) I do not need to rebel against tradition, just for the sake of rebellion. Some traditions are there in order to preserve order, to keep us from running off by ourselves and falling off a cliff.
What I am suggesting is that we think before we follow the faceless crowd. Jesus, in His "High Priestly Prayer" in John 17 says, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." We, as Christians are not to be like the rest of the world, so why should we look to them for our culture? Paul, likewise, admonishes: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." The way we think should be different.
The other day, my brother showed this video. The kid here, Jacob Barnett, has asperger's syndrome and is fourteen years old. He is on track to disprove Einsteinian astrophysics. His advice at the very end of the video caught my attention. (Here's a quote if you don't have time to watch the video:
Stop learning and start thinking. You guys have a passion out there, and you all know what it is. So I want you to think about that field instead of learning in that field. And, instead of being a student of that field, be the field.
His advice is interesting because I see in it Biblical principals. The writer of Hebrews chastises his audience for similar reasons:
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
He tells us the same thing. We need to stop just learning and start doing. (Though I'll admit that I think both should be happening.) I am guilty of this. I love to learn, but I don't do much with it. Both Paul and James weigh in on this issue as well. Paul writes, "it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified." And James echoes, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves."
This mindset pervades our thinking as deeply as our own vision for the future. We tend to think about our future in terms of where we will be, what job we will have, and what we will be doing. This idea was challenged in my mind at my school's orientation week, which I attended at the end of last month. One of the speakers spoke against drinking, as the school has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol. But instead of simply telling us of the dangers, he challenged our character, and our own vision of the future. He suggested that: "Who do you want to be is what we should be asking ourselves instead of what do you want to be."
This question should be in the forefront of every Christian mind. Who do I want to be? I hope in my life that the answer is clear; I want to be a little Christ, a reflection of the mercy and love of the Living God. I see that reflection in Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon. Recently Dr. Carson spoke at my school, reiterating much of what he said at this year's national prayer breakfast. Here are some of my favorite quotes: "Humans are made in God's image, and God's no dummy." (And from his mother) "Do you have a brain? Yes? Then you can sort your way out of the problem." But my favorite over all, and the one that is most relevant is: "When we stop looking for excused, we start looking for solutions." This is my favorite because of the practical value it has, and because it is an echo of Jacob Barnett's video in my mind. We need to stop learning, stop complaining, stop making excuses, and stop sitting on our hands waiting for something to change. We need to make change ourselves. We need to be doers.
One thing we need to start doing is to start thinking. We need to learn to let our mind be renewed by dwelling on "Whatever is is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and... anything worthy of praise." We need to abide in Christ and in His word (John 15). We need to meditate on God's Word. As the writer of Hebrews refers to the solid food, or meat, so we need to chew on it. And once we've learned to think rightly, let's do what God's Word says. Let's produce a new culture that won't lead to a dead end, a culture of life. Let's get out of the lemming parade, and "enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Let's get back on the Ancient Path and walk in the Way.
Written from my dining room.