Thursday, December 15, 2016

Just Keep Learning, Just Keep Learning

For those who may wonder, yes, the title is in regard to Dory the fish who said, “Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.” Be honest, if you have seen “Finding Nemo”, you have almost certainly paraphrased her words yourself somewhere along the line. See, I knew it. So, please, indulge my paraphrase too.

One of my life’s maxims is “When you stop learning, you start dying.” Of course, in today’s world where new information is growing exponentially, it might be said that it is impossible to not learn something new every day. Perhaps that is true, but learning requires more than just being exposed to new data through our various senses. True learning requires us to process the data we receive and then do something with it. Frankly, I concern myself with a lot of data that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme (e.g. sports stats), but sometimes knowing certain facts can be fun, and what is important is, in part, relative to each person.

Of course, one challenge to learning occurs when we are exposed to new material that challenges what we already know. This has been a recurring theme lately on the church blog (and here too) as I continue to work through the book of Mark. As I have said many times to date, it is easy to pick on the disciples lack of understanding because we are looking back on their story. But this week, the tables were turned, they saw something far more clearly than I ever had (as a learner and a teacher). The details are laid out here, but essentially, the issue is the way I have likely misunderstood Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem (what we call Palm Sunday).

While it is great to learn, we must determine our reaction to learning – when it goes against our preconceived ideas and especially against what we have been taught by others we respect. For me, I am usually encouraged to determine what else I only think I know. That is, if I learn something new, or different, about something I already knew, I often seek to know even more to uncover the real truth or more of it. Of course, there are limitations, but those limitations – time and interests primarily – are my limitations. If time was unlimited and my interests were better expanded, I wonder how much I might dig into everything!

As for the issue that brought this about (the details of Jesus’ entry), you might ask, “Does it matter?” Again, time and interests might be a part of your question. But for me, it matters deeply. First, it matters because I want to be true to God’s Word – especially in teaching it to others. This detail might not affect how I live out my faith directly. However, it does impact whether or not I can say that the same crowd who cheered for Jesus on Sunday called for Him to be crucified later in the week. That is not an insignificant statement, and it is one I have made in the past. Now, I find that the likelihood of that statement is false. Certainly crowds can be fickle, which is how this idea is generally espoused, but if Jesus had not yet entered Jerusalem when people were shouting “Hosanna,” then two distinct crowds exist. If so, then that is very significant!

When it comes to the Bible, it should be impossible not to learn more. God is omniscient and His word is deep! What we understand in part can save us, but we can never reach the depths of understanding on this side of eternity (Romans 11.33-34; and though I give deference to Paul (1 Corinthians 13.12), I am not certain we can then either). But many people do not care to learn more, or do not give the effort to do so. Or perhaps, it is a matter of understanding how to dig deeper. The truth is that many opportunities exists to learn how, but the care to learn and desire for learning must first come from within.

So, let us desire to learn and keep learning. Because as we learn, we have the opportunity to grow. And as we grow, we have the opportunity to become. This is true in all of life, but particularly so with regards to the ways of God. If we give ourselves to Him, He can teach us great things – even when we thought we already knew. And then, as we are becoming, what we become will be more like Him (Ephesians 5.1, Romans 8.29), which is the very desire He has for each of us.

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