Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Into the Great Unknown

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Fear is debilitating. Fear holds us back and keeps us from the work of God. Fear squashes faith. Throughout Scripture God continually tells his people, “Do not fear.” God understands what fear can do to human beings and he wants his people to live by faith rather than fear. One of our greatest fears is of the unknown. We are afraid of what we don’t understand and cannot explain. If we cannot make sense of something, then we either attack it or give it an explanation, even if that explanation happens to be wrong. We fear the unknown and so we either try and destroy it or explain it away. We avoid living with what we cannot understand or explain and this is detrimental to the Christian faith. Christianity asks us to embrace mystery and engage the unknown. When fear wins out we do neither, but if we live by faith then we will find ourselves blessed by the mysteries of God and willing to engage what we do not understand.

Living with Mystery

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)

Some things that God reveals to us are as clear as day, but others are mysterious and not easily understood. God is full of infinite wisdom and we barely scratch the surface of this wisdom with our finite minds. The ways of God are far above us. It is an honorable pursuit to seek to know all there is to know about God, but knowing everything is impossible. All we can know is what has been revealed to us through Scripture and creation and some of that is mysterious. It is important for Christians to embrace this mystery, but we are often afraid because mystery is the great unknown.

Instead of embracing Christian mystery, we often seek to explain it. This is the reason we have so many theories regarding deep Biblical truths like the trinity or the atonement. We cannot easily understand one God in three persons. We cannot easily understand God crucified and everything there is to know about the death of Jesus. These are holy mysteries. These are things we confess and believe, but we never fully understand. This does not mean we should give up trying. It is a noble thing to spend a lifetime meditating upon the deeper things of God, but at the end of the day we must confess our inabilities to know all there is to know.

In seeking to explain the mysteries of God, churches have created theories and formulas that have caused division. Our fear of the unknown causes us to explain what God has not explained. When we fail to embrace the mysteries of God, we go beyond Scripture and we create doctrines where there were no doctrines. Mystery makes us uncomfortable. We want to know. We want to explain. We don’t want to step into the mystery of God and live there. This is unfortunate because embracing mystery is where we should be. Embracing mystery means we accept our limits and put our trust in God. Embracing mystery means we humble ourselves and learn to rely on God.

Engaging the Unknown

There is another type of unknown which Christians fear. This unknown should not be embraced, but it should be engaged and sought to be understood. This unknown could be any number of things. It could be an idea, person, religion, or piece of art. Instead of thoughtfully engaging things we do not understand, Christians often choose to attack. Frequently we view the unknown as a threat to our Christian faith. Instead of trying to understand a religion that may share certain values with Christianity, we demonize it and refuse to acknowledge anything good that may come from it. Instead of trying to get to know the stranger down the street who is covered with tattoos and piercings, we simply view them as a lost cause. This happens all the time. It happened recently with the film Noah. There are legitimate issues with the film, but many Christians attacked it as “atheistic propaganda” or “Gnostic heresy” without thoughtfully engaging the film itself. Some of these Christians had not even seen the film and others were confused by what they saw. Why do we do this? It is because we fear the unknown and we would rather destroy it rather than engage it.

Understanding and engaging the unknown does not mean we accept it. We should not accept false religions, but if we are truly seeking to save the lost then we will seek to engage rather than attack. We should be seeking to open doors, not close them. Understanding and engaging is difficult. It means we are probably going to be challenged. It means we are going to learn things we didn’t know before. It means we may begin to view the world a little differently because of what we discover. Seeking to understand and engage is an act of faith. We enter into the great unknown with God on our side. As we enter into the great unknown we are seeking truth, and we are open to sharing truth with others. We want to listen and share. Listening comes first and this is difficult for many of us. We want to share but not listen. We must remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

We must always treat others the way we would like to be treated. If we want someone to listen to us, then we must first listen to them. If we want someone to understand our point of view, then we must first seek to understand their point of view. If we are serious about God’s mission of saving the lost, then we will seek to engage the unknown. Our faith in God should trump our fear in what we do not know and understand.

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