Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God
If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the Church of God, so you’ve heard sermons before. You’ve probably heard quite a few Bible studies, too, like the one Mr. Mario Hernandez gave for the most recent Assembly, in which he powerfully emphasized the command and the need for us to read from God’s word every morning and every evening.
Messages like that, instructional ones that point out things required of us, are given for what should be an obvious reason: Not everybody knows about every requirement. Case in point, I don’t remember ever hearing a sermon about how we shouldn’t eat one another, because that’s common knowledge—the world at large pretty much agrees that if I’m hungry, you’re not an option. But messages about not hating one another, for example, will always be needed, because although that’s required of us too, not everyone knows it—it’s a bit easier to forget than the law against cannibalism.
All humans are ignorant. We’re not to try to be, but it doesn’t make much sense to deny the fact that every one of us simply doesn’t know a lot of stuff, including a lot that’s biblical. The Bible’s not exactly light beach reading, and we wouldn’t need ministers if we could all just go through it and internalize everything we’ll ever need to know.
Yet how many of us, after hearing an enlightening message of instruction, feel terrible about having not known something? Maybe we haven’t thought to read the Bible every morning and evening. Maybe it never occurred to us that we need to keep a third tithe. Maybe it never crossed our minds that a daily part of our vocabulary might be a word we really shouldn’t say.
We didn’t know. But now that we do, what should our reaction be? For some, the first reaction is shame, as though they’re somehow stupid for not having made these connections themselves. Certainly, a godly sorrow is appropriate, because a sin committed in ignorance is still a sin, but if we sincerely ask God for forgiveness and determine to change whatever it is we’ve been doing or not doing, what’s the use of guilt-tripping ourselves over what, until recently, we had no idea was a problem?
Nineveh’s a good example of the right reaction. When it was made abundantly clear that major change was essential, the king of Nineveh didn’t wallow in guilt and think, “Well, we’ve been seriously missing something, so, I guess we’re terrible people who deserve whatever we have coming to us.” His response was almost the opposite—“let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” (Jonah 3:8-9).
What Defines Us
Nineveh accepted that they’d been ignorant of something important, and they determined to change. No “I can’t believe I didn’t know, I’m so stupid and awful”—just a desire to make the most out of what they now knew, and even, in their own way, an understanding that God is a merciful rewarder of heartfelt repentance.
So, if we hear a message that makes us aware of something wrong we’ve been doing, or something right we haven’t been doing, Nineveh might be a good place for our thoughts to go. God’s a whole lot more interested in our future than He is in our past, so we’re not defined by our ignorant mistakes—we’re defined by what we do about them.
Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God
A psychologist by the—awesome—name of Solomon Asch conducted a super unnerving experiment in 1951. He had a group of eight people look at four drawn lines—three “comparison” lines and one “target” line.
Each member of the group had to say, out loud, which of the comparison lines they thought matched the target one in length, and this was repeated with eighteen sets of lines. It wasn’t hard; the right answers were intended to be really obvious.
The catch—there’s always a catch with these tricky psychologists—was that most of the time, seven of those eight people purposely gave blatantly wrong answers. Asch had told them to. The unsuspecting eighth participant was the real focus of the study—would he, despite the obviously wrong answers of all his peers, conform to them, answering in the same way? Asch conducted this experiment over and over again, and found that 75 percent of these participants did, at least once, do exactly this.
For his student Assembly, Mr. Ames let us watch a movie (I love it when people do that), Unlocking the Mystery of Life. It’s a documentary presenting several scientists and their reasons for embracing the theory that our mind-bogglingly complex universe had, itself, a mind behind it. It’s right here, if you want to watch it.
That the universe was intelligently designed happens to be true,
and like a lot of true things, it has a plethora of compelling pieces of evidence in its favor. Irreducible complexity, the Design Inference, the fact that proteins and DNA can’t possibly make sense without each other—you’ve heard the arguments. They’re good. Even, perhaps, better than, good—they could very well be bulletproof. Just as bulletproof as the reasons for why the Bible is definitely God’s inspired word, and for why God’s true Church is emphatically not Catholic or Protestant.
But as Solomon Asch demonstrated, something being obviously right doesn’t mean we won’t abandon it for what everyone else says is right.
The Target Line
Asch found that people tend to conform for one of two reasons. Either they know they’re wrong and are okay with that, because “At least I won’t be ridiculed,” or they honestly believe that if most people are saying something, that something must be true.
Neither of these influences make a whole lot of sense, but they are, undeniably, influences, and those who try to tear us away from the God of the Bible make great use of both. Such people have also been told to give the wrong answers, but by someone infinitely more nefarious than Solomon Asch—and they actually believe the wrong answers they’re giving.
Encouragingly, in Asch’s experiment, 25 percent of participants consistently refused to conform to the wrong answers of those in their groups. The advantage we have over them is that we know exactly what’s going on; God’s word tells us that the others in our “group” are spewing fake info, blinded by a spiritual veil and victims of a truth-deprived society. With that knowledge, we can be confident that we aren’t wrong; there is a God, He did inspire the Bible, and we are in His Church.
As for ridicule, since the Designer of reality informs us that we’re not stupid, I think we can safely ignore Richard Dawkins & Friends saying otherwise. Like the 25 percent in Asch’s experiment, we can be confident and unyielding. The line that includes God, His word, and His Church, obviously matches the target line—no matter what anyone says.