Do you know how often you are influenced by what you already believe–even if what you believe is false? I found an interesting encounter that the disciples had with their Master Jesus. In this case, the disciples were influenced by what their believed about their guilt! Here it is in Matthew 16:5-12:
“And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? “Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? “Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? “How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (NASB).
Did you notice how their guilt about not bringing along bread was like a filter to the way they perceived and interpreted Jesus’ words? You and I do this all the time. Our perception about what others say and do goes through the filter of what we already believe. And in the disciples’ case, they believed that they were guilty and had been found out!
I was chatting at a women’s event with a gal whom I’ll call “Shirley.” She told me this story:
“When I was growing up, my parent’s marriage seemed rock solid. I felt so secure because of that and anticipated that I would have the same kind of marriage. But after I’d been married a year or two, my mother suddenly left because my father was most likely having what we’d now call a mid-life crisis. My world fell apart. I concluded that you couldn’t be sure about marriage after all. Even though my parents got back together, my secure feeling had dissipated. I started thinking for the first time, ‘I wonder when my husband will fall out of love with me.’ When my husband started seeming a little distant, I thought, ‘OK, here it is. Everything is going to fall apart just like with my parents. I knew it was just a matter of time.'”
Shirley continued telling me how she began to get very upset with her husband and overreacted in an effort to try to hold things together. Thankfully, they were able to work it out fine because her husband explained that he hadn’t fallen out of love with her, he was just intensely focused at work because of a critical project. What she feared wasn’t happening. Yet, her overreactions could have caused him to withdraw from her if he had interpreted her actions as not respecting him. A crisis was averted.
But Shirley’s story shows how pre-conceived ideas can flavor and influence our perceptions. Did you notice in the disciples’ story how they concluded, “He said that because….” They assumed they knew. They talked among themselves but didn’t ask Jesus. They assumed they could interpret what Jesus meant. They allowed their guilt to overwhelm their ability to ASK! They may have even been afraid that by asking what Jesus meant, He would only confirm their worst fear: that they are indeed guilty. So, it may have even felt safer to sit in their little pit of guilt. Only Jesus knowing what was really going on, opened the door for clarification.
Have you ever done something similar? I know I have. Maybe Larry seems a little gruff and I just know he’s upset because dinner didn’t taste very good. (By the way, it turns out he was just distracted by whatever he was concentrating on).
Maybe my friend doesn’t respond to my email and because I was asking for a favor, I conclude she doesn’t like me anymore and doesn’t want to help. (By the way, she was out of town and couldn’t check her email.)
Maybe I send out an article but never hear. I conclude they didn’t like it and don’t pursue it. (By the way, it turns out the article didn’t reach them.)
The simple but risky solution is asking! It feels risky because we might hear what we fear. So we’d rather just ignore or overreact to defend ourselves or ????? What’s your strategy that leaves out God?
Maybe the saddest thing about the disciples is why Jesus has to rebuke them. They were upset about not having brought their own bread when Jesus had created enough bread that fed first 5,000 and then 4,000. Hello! They needlessly felt guilty about something that is inconsequential. It was a non-issue. And I get defensive and create my own self-protective, sinful strategies when Jesus is capable of providing everything I need. Oh, the wicked webs we weave.
It was ultimately their little faith in Jesus’ love for them that wove the strategies of protection around them. Let’s put on our shield of faith to protect ourselves from believing false ideas. And for many situations, let’s ask instead of assume!