By: Barr Overcast, Assistant Pastor
This is the third in a series of four blog posts that our church’s elders and elder candidates are writing to remind us of the mission that we have been given by our Lord. They are intended to re-orient us to the things that God has called us to do as a church and as members of the body of Christ, spurring us on to celebrate, confront, clarify, and create. Keep your eye out for the rest of these posts throughout January and into February.
Clarifying What is Confused
“just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” — 2 Peter 3:15-16
It’s kind of nice to hear the apostle Peter himself acknowledge that there are parts of the Bible that are “hard to understand.” All of us have times when we read a passage of Scripture and simply don’t understand it. We re-read it multiple times, and we’re still confused. Sometimes that’s simply because the Bible was written 2,000+ years ago, and sometimes it’s because the Bible is trying to be confusing (Matthew 13:10-15). But a lot of the confusion we experience as we read Scripture comes from our own hearts, our own sin. This is what Peter is pointing out.
Sin creates confusion as we seek to understand God, ourselves, and the gospel. Sin causes us to twist the evidence to suit what we want to believe. We embrace those things, both lies and truths, that square most easily with how we want to live our lives and ignore or diminish those things that make us uncomfortable. Anything that doesn’t square with our self-centered, self-sufficient view of the world has to go. This means that it’s not only true that sin leads to confusion; it’s also true that confusion leads to sin. Sin is blinding, and the primary thing that sin blinds us to is its own existence. The confusion that sin creates keeps us from addressing the sin in our own lives. Confusion and sin spiral around one another, feeding each other.
As we wander in the fog of confusion that sin brings, we need the light that clarity brings. John 1:5 tells us that “the light shines in the darkness.” Sin blinds, but Jesus, the light of the world, gives sight. Through His law and His love, God shows us our sin and our need for a savior. The Word and the Spirit together open our hearts to the truth that sets us free from our sin and our confusion. God also uses the fellowship of other believers to bring clarity in our confusion. This is what Jesus means when he says to believers, “You are the light of the world.” It is our responsibility to bring clarity when others are confused, to shine the light of truth on darkened minds.
How do we go about clarifying what is confused?
With humility - If we seek to be lights in a dark world and fail to acknowledge our own proclivity towards confusion, then we’re missing the point. As long as sin remains, then we too will continue to believe untruths. We cannot go about as if we have nothing to learn from others (even unbelievers), because doing so would be tantamount to denying that we sin (which 1 John 1:8 tells us is a little bit problematic).
With boldness - Even though we are fallible and prone to confusion ourselves, God’s word is not. As we point others to the light of God’s word, we can speak the truth boldly to a confused world.
With precision - I recently heard someone use a phrase that I’ve fallen in love with: “a distinction without a difference.” While we certainly want to be wary of falling prey to distinctions without differences, Christians ought to be people who love distinctions. Distinctions bring understanding; they help us make sense of God’s world. Distinctions bring precision to our language and help us bring clarity into confusion.
With discernment - Prioritize those times when we see others “twist” the facts “to their own destruction.” In other words, the places where we are most clearly called to clarify what is confused is over gospel issues, when we see others embrace a low view of God’s glory or a high view of their own holiness. It may be appropriate to overlook confusion at times, but not when it is leading to sin or self-sufficiency.