I’ve been working on writing a new book and thinking a lot about our paradigms lately. Paradigms are funny things. We all have one and they color how we understand everything. How we interpret life…each other…God. It’s the fishbowl we’ve been swimming in. It’s our “normal,” even if there’s nothing normal about them. And, because of our paradigms, we often don’t see the obvious truth right in front of us.
Ronald Timothy said this about paradigms:
“Paradigms can be so strong they act as psychological filters – we quite literally see the world through our paradigms. Any data that exists in the real world (or even in the Bible) that does not fit our paradigm will have a difficult time getting through our filters. We are quite literally unable to perceive the facts right before our eyes. Thus, our greatest strengths can become our greatest weakness by not allowing us to see both the need and the opportunity for change. The people who create new paradigms are usually outsiders. They are not part of the established paradigm community.“– (Ronald Timothy, Following Jesus: Our Cruciform Example)
Paradigms are how we make sense of the world around us, which is good. But they can also hinder our growth as human beings if we stay rigidly stuck in them.
And this is especially true as we follow Christ. His kingdom is always advancing. While His written word never changes, our understanding of His Word must. Theology and doctrine are critically important, but not more important than growing in our knowledge of Christ. Holy Spirit continues to reveal what Jesus has already given us.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15 NIV)
Jesus was an iconoclastic outsider in many ways in His day. He was constantly challenging and deconstructing the theological paradigms of His followers. While He never actually broke the Law of Moses, He totally upset the Jewish leaders’ understanding of it by interpreting it in a way they did not learn from their teachers. While the people He ministered to, who had open hearts to receive this new paradigm, rejoiced, most of the leaders did not and had Him crucified. All because He represented a paradigm shift from their religious expectations.
So, it’s critically important that our hearts remain open to what God is doing on the earth today, otherwise we could end up on the wrong side of things. Our current paradigms probably will be challenged. And it may just be God doing it, even though we may be tempted to think He’s not. But as Jesus told His religious accusers:
19 Yet when the Son of Man came and went to feasts and drank wine, you said, ‘Look at this Man! He is nothing but a glutton and a drunkard! He spends all his time with tax collectors and other affluent sinners.’ But God’s wisdom will be visibly seen living in those who embrace it.” (Matt.11:19 TPT)
In other words, we can see if something is from God by the fruit. And the fruit always looks like “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal.5:22-23)
As I said before, practice the art of faithful questioning. Keep growing in the Lord and don’t put yourself in a doctrinal box, and especially don’t put God in a theological box based on what you’ve been taught and not on knowledge. It can be a very dangerous thing. The last time God was put in a box He said if you touch it you’ll die!
And if we stay in our box, we may stop growing and live out a diminished existence that God never intended for us to live. In that regard, I will close with my favorite passage from the Message Bible. It says it all about living a life of dynamic growth, adventure, and filled with purpose and joy that Christ meant for us.
11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2 Cor.6:11-13 MSG)