(Or: We Certainly Have to Live with Some Uncertainty)
I like certainty. Don’t tell me my frozen pizza is going to take 23 to 28 minutes – give me an exact number! I don’t want to have to check the oven again and again. And speaking of numbers, nothing makes me more anxious than being at the deli counter when they’re not using their take-a-number machine. How will I be certain to get my turn when I should?
Because we believe in an all-knowing God, I think we Christians believe that the answers for all our questions are there for us to find somewhere. But I think we need to manage our expectations when it comes to getting clear and definite answers from God. After all it was the tree of knowledge that God warned us against eating from. In all his covenants, God never says, “I want you to follow me, and I will tell you everything.”
God is an ongoing revelation to us. In Psalm 19 it says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” There is always new learnings for the community of believers.
So, there are certain things we can be certain of, yet other things we should expect to remain uncertain about, even if certain people say we should certainly know. And even what we think we are certain about, we need to take care how we demonstrate our certainty. There was only one person who could know all things with some certainty, and how did he act?
When Jesus encounters Zacchaeus, he knows that Zacchaeus is misbehaving – maybe not by the standards of his society or profession, but by God’s standards. And this is what Jesus does to convince him he’s wrong: he invites himself over for dinner. There is no scriptural recording of a lecture that Jesus gives him. All he does is be present with him.
We seek tangible knowledge of all things, definite answers to life’s thorny questions, when seeking knowledge rather than trusting in God is the original sin. We cannot set people right by telling them they are wrong, when we may be wrong ourselves. We can only bring Jesus Christ to them, and let the presence of Christ convince them of what they need to do.
Oh, and let the presence of Christ convince us of what we need to do, too. Because we might not be doing the right thing, ourselves.
So, the next time you are convinced you need convince somebody of anything other than the basic fact that Jesus Christ loves them, begin by telling yourself “I could be wrong.” Seek to be Jesus for them, and let Love’s revelation, God’s wisdom guide them.
When I went to VBS as a kid, one of our craft projects was an ashtray. An ashtray! To encourage smoking! We Christians do not always know what’s right. All we know for sure is that God loves everyone. Everyone.