Sep 10, 2007


End note (at the beginning) this is yet another really long one with several points and some setup, but you can make it!)

Well, yet another random one. Throughout the years it has been interesting to see the different reactions I get from people and to take note of the angle from which they are viewing me. One thing that I find to be a constant frustration and source of comedy is how we are so multifaceted; that people never completely know each other. We are so insanely complex and so many things affect our perception of another person. The angle from which we view a person is perhaps the greatest source for opinion, yet it is only one of who knows how many angles (and from the perception of an imperfect observer). So, we already have two problems affecting perception. We, as multifaceted beings, must be viewed from different angles (as many as possible, if we want a clearer picture of the person). We must also be viewed with discerning eyes and our perception must be checked time and time again, by the best we are able to perceive of the reality of who they are. This is why it is so foolish to marry someone after only a short period of time and why we must be careful not to write people off after a bad impression.

I can be a very “modalistic” person. By this I mean that I sometimes act very different in one context than I do in a different context. When I am at work, I don’t really goof off at all. In my mind, I am there to do a job, to do it to the best of my abilities, and to do it as efficiently as possible. Thus, when I am at work, I am a very serious and focused person (as a rule). When I am in class, I am much the same way. I am there to learn and to pay attention, so (as a rule) I sit in the front and don’t talk to people. When I am at karate or working out, the same thing applies, I am quite focused on that (though at karate a decent amount of goofing off applies when I am not the one teaching). When I preach, I am very intense: I’m there to deliver the Word of God, which may involve humor, but my primary purpose is to be faithful in delivering the message, which is a very serious matter. When I am hyper and goofing off around friends, I am just a big goofball. Now, none of this is to mean that I can’t and / or don’t switch “modes” or that I don’t sometimes switch easily (though some are easier than others). In other words, when I preach or teach, that does not mean that I never preach light-hearted messaged or that my delivery is devoid of emotion. This does not mean that when I’m hyper and goofing off, that I can’t switch into a very serious and intense conversation (in fact, I love doing so).

My point with the above, and with the note in general, is that I know the different facets of who I am (at least somewhat) and it is funny, frustrating, and disillusioning sometimes when I realize that person “x” doesn’t realize that facet “g” exists. For example, I remember when I led the college / career ministry at my old church. This was a new ministry for our church and for the first week or two it was all about adjusting and getting things in place. Now, they had heard me preach and seen my in the various roles in which I served, but none of us really knew each other. I led the lessons for a few weeks before things were really in place enough to start thinking socially. Then, after a week or two I started trying to get social activities together to draw us together as a group. At this point, they had only known “Aaron the teacher.” One of the first times that we came together socially (see *1 – to include here would be an intrusion into this thought) I was really hyper (some of you know what this is like and some don’t ;), so they got to see a little of “the other side” of Aaron. Later in conversation, Meg (who is now with the Lord) was talking to me and said something to the effect that she was not very excited about having me for a leader at first because I was so intense and serious. She couldn’t imagine having fun, much less community, with a leader like that. Later in our friendship, I am sure there were times where she wished I’d be a little less silly ;) I also remember another person and situation with my friend from Charleston, Mike. He and I “came up together” in the Martial Arts. He always saw the goofy, hyper Aaron. For at least a few years this was really the only impression he had of me. Then, I remember he came in to visit me at work one day and I was busy doing whatever and didn’t really spend much time talking or goofing off. Later, he commented on the difference and said something to the effect that he couldn’t believe how serious I was.

We go through life with some sort of picture of who we are (sometimes accurate, sometimes not) and by nature of having no other knowledge, assume (at least in general) that others have the same picture. Thus when troubles come or someone says something that contradicts our picture, it can be very hurtful and disillusioning. For example, one thing that I am VERY passionate about is being totally upfront and honest in all situations with everyone (see my Ben Franklin quote, it resonates with me). Now, I am not delusional in thinking that I have achieved this, but it is a very large part of who I am and I strive to be as such. When someone says something that contradicts this, it really bothers me. For example, a friend a while back said that I was not upfront and then later qualified that I was not as upfront as I thought I was. If she is right, then I obviously have a flawed picture. As we discussed it, the things to which she was referring were thing which would be very unwise to share for one reason or another. Thus, no, I do not share anything and everything: if wisdom demands that I keep my mouth shut, then I will. In all other areas I strive to be totally open. This is a very real example of where this person saw one facet of who I am (ie: the situations where wisdom is required form the bulk of her perception of this aspect of me), and misunderstood the whole picture.

Ok, so what is my point in all of this? Well, I really have two. The first is to encourage us all to be careful in “cementing” our perceptions of others. I have known many married couples who admit that when they first met each other, at least one of them could not stand the other one because of one thing or the other. In fact, one of them it was because he was SO intense in his teaching, she didn’t think she could ever approach him – just thought I’d throw that one in there :) I have also lost count of how many friendships may have been prevented and how many have been hurt because of this very thing. We must be careful not to judge prematurely and we must treat each other with lots of grace. It is the height of arrogance to think that we have perfect knowledge of the other person, only God has this type of knowledge (which is why we must also pray) (see *2).

This naturally leads me to my second point. If we, as finite beings, are so complex and multifaceted, how much more is God! If we cannot understand ourselves, and definitely can’t understand each other, what hope do we have of understanding God?! The bottom line is that apart from Him revealing Himself, we can’t. Thankfully, God is not an imperfect being. Instead, He is perfection. He is the very definition of what it means to be perfect, He is the measuring rod. Thus, if He says it, we can believe it, based on who He is and the simple fact that He said it. Thus, we can know God, but not perfectly because that would require that we be God. If that were possible, He would not be God. Anyway, enough of that, my point here is that God has revealed Himself in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the Holy Bible. Thus, though God is incomprehensible, we can know about Him through His word. Therein, He has given the testimony of how we can know Him personally, through His Son Jesus Christ! (I am not connecting all the dots here, but I trust that you are following me, if not, please ask). Ok, so, if a person knows God personally through Christ His Son, what then? Well, we still do not have perfect knowledge of God. Christ through the Holy Spirit reveals God’s Word to us and we can grow deeper and deeper in our knowledge of who He is. We can study the scriptures our entire lives and still not scratch the surface of what God has revealed about Himself. This should humble us and drive us to seek to know Him more. To go a step beyond this, though God has revealed certain facets of who He is through the Scriptures, He is so much more than that (comparably) minute revelation. Thus, we must be very careful that we NEVER assume we are beginning to grasp Him. He has given us what we need for now and we are to study that faithfully. He has told us that He is love, that He is just, that he is holy, and so on and so on. We can trust these things to be completely true (as discussed above) and though we cannot see the other facets of who He is we need not worry that those unknown facets will contradict any that He has already revealed. Remember, God is not a man that He should lie. He does not tell us one thing to hide another, nor does He have an incorrect perception of Himself. What He has revealed is entirely true and good, but let us never fall to thinking that what is revealed is all of who He is. Some things are just too much for us to comprehend. For example, God has revealed that He is holy. Stop and think about that. What does it mean to be perfectly holy? If the thought does not send you hours of contemplation, you are not thinking about it deep enough. Ultimately we cannot even comprehend this one attribute. This is but one of the many things that He has revealed about Himself. Were we to ponder all of them it would take us the rest of our lives and we would still fall way short. How much more the things that are incommunicable and as yet unknown?

Now, my point to the previous section is that we can know certain things. God has said that Jesus Christ is His Son, that is not up for debate. Anyone who says otherwise rejects God and is a liar (see *3). This is a clear example of things which need to “other” perspective. Though we may not be able to comprehend the complexities of how this works or the interrelationship of the Trinity, we can stand firmly on what is clearly revealed. The doctrine of Christ’s deity is very clear and is not something that we should say is ok to disagree on. Other things, however, are not as clear. For example, in His Word, God reveals that Christ will return at some point, that there will be a judgment, that no sane person should want to be apart from Christ when this happens, and that we must be faithful in trying to tell people the Good News. These statements are very clearly revealed in the Scriptures. There can be no debate as to the truth of these statements (at least not based on what God has revealed). However, the specifics of how these things will be played out is not very clear at all, as evidenced by centuries of fervent debate and study. This is an area where honest difference of opinion can exist. As such, we must show grace to each other when we disagree with brothers and sisters in Christ. This is one of those multifaceted examples where we can know something, something that is true, but we cannot comprehend the complexities of it. Now, I admit this is a weaker example. Now, to go for the kill and the super controversial subject around here (he he). The subject of God’s sovereignty. The Bible clearly says that God is sovereign. He is in total and absolute control. Nothing can trump Him, nothing surprises Him, and NOTHING is beyond His control. For someone to deny this fact, is to deny who God is and the testimony of Scripture. They have erred into heresy. However, the Bible also very clearly teaches that human beings make real choices and that they are responsible for those choices. God created us with some sense of free will. This is from God and cannot be denied. To do so, is also to err into heresy. So, what do we do with this tension (which is a term that means something we cannot comprehend)? Welcome to centuries of debate my friend! My point here is not to debate the issue, in fact, I think way too much time has been spent on it already! My point is that God is so incredibly beyond our scope of comprehension and so much more multifaceted than we are, that we cannot comprehend how these two things work together. We have tried time and time again to comprehend it, but, in my opinion, it is a mystery we do not have the capacity to understand and to claim that we do, is to go well beyond revealed scripture. Thus, this area, perhaps above all others in our Seminaries and Bible schools, is one in which we should show grace. How can we condemn one brother for staring at facet # 3,645,234,545, when we are fixated on facet # 3,645,234,546? Yet so often we do. We are only separated by a fraction of comprehension, both staring at the same characteristic of God’s relationship to humanity, though at slightly different facets, and then calling each other false based on our perception. The fact is that neither of us comprehends the total truth and to think that we do reduces God’s glory and exalts our arrogance (which btw, is and always is a negative correlation). Thus, again, we must show grace. We must realize our limited ability to understand against God’s infinity! So let us not divide over issues that simply come down to God being God and humans being flawed and only partially able to understand.

With the above, please do not hear me saying that we should not study to show ourselves approved. I believe that we should all study these things and try, the best that we can, to comprehend them. This should be both our duty and our joy, in growing in the knowledge of and in our relationship with, Christ our Savior. What I am saying is that unless something is truly crystal clear, let us have the humility to admit that we may be wrong and not judge our brother, who may be right, and the sense to realize we may both be blind.

Oh yeah, and before I forget, though the thoughts are mine (in as much as anything is ours), the specific term “facets” was taken from Kenneth Boa’s book “Conformed to His Image.” It is worth a read!

*1 – If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. When meeting new people and especially in a new group I tend to be an observer first. I will sort of disappear and watch and learn to see who people are. Thus, when I first meet people, they often think I am really quiet and reserved. Later they learn quite the opposite ;)

*2 - Note: this is not to lead to relativism, just to be sober in judgment and always with the realization that we may be wrong. Some would use similar logic to make the case that we cannot truly know anything and thus all is relative (which is a self-defeating argument btw ;). That is not AT ALL what I mean or the direction I am taking. The difference here is that my argument is based and / or formed on the authority of scripture. So, I am not making the case for Universalism or for anything other aberration.

*3 – 1 John 5:10 (in context vs 6-12); John 8:39-59; 1 John 2:22

Now, to prove yet another facet of who I am. I can be incredibly random (those who know me best are going, yep!). This entire note started because I wanted to post something short and fun (clearly I have accomplished that, right :). I sat down to post one of my favorite cartoons from one of my favorite cartoonists. I was going to write a sentence or two about how I am multifaceted and I like the serious stuff as well as the comical. So, 5 pages of text later…

This is one of my favorite cartoons by Reverend Fun. This site is my homepage. I will warn you, some of his stuff is absolutely hilarious and some just leave you scratching your head going O-K… (sorry Rev). Either way, it is worth a look :)


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