Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance and Preaching to the Choir


       "Daddy, that was an awesome sermon, but you really did make my head hurt". These were my daughter, "Diamond's" words after I finished preaching a sermon on Romans 12 last Saturday. Well, at least I knew she was paying attention to the end of the message, cause I had used that phrase to explain the difficult passage in verse 20 that talks about heaping burning coals on the heads of our enemies. You see, after reading the things that Paul calls the believers to be doing in their lives throughout the rest of the chapter, I came to the conclusion that when Paul talks of burning coals, he is most probably using something akin to the modern phrase "you make my head hurt". We can all pretty much relate to this when we encounter someone or something that does not make sense to us. In technical terms, we would call this cognitive dissonance, basically a fancy term for when our beliefs or expectations are contradicted by real world experience. 

      Wanting to know just how much of the sermon she had listened to, I asked her which part hurt her head the most. Without missing a beat, she explained that it was the parts about praying blessings over those who persecute us, and about feeding our enemies. I explained that the reason these things seem so difficult is that they run contrary to our nature, in fact, just about everything that Paul calls the believers to "do" in chapter 12 is contrary to our nature, but that is what being a living sacrifice is all about, surrendering your life, all of it, with all the rights and privileges we consider so dear. My daughter looked at me and thought for a minute, then she said "That would take an awful lot of trust". And just like that, she nailed it, that is the very heart of Romans.
        Romans 12 is all about how to live out the walking in the Spirit that Paul talks about in chapter 8, and in both cases, the key is FAITH. And what is faith, but trust, God wants us to believe that He really is everything that He says He is. This is why the book of Romans is full of reminders of God's great love. Why in chapter 5, we see that God loved us enough to give His own son's life, even when we were His enemies. Why in chapter 8, Paul confidently declares that God is working all things for our good, and that even the very powers of Hell cannot come between us and His love. This is why Paul spends 3 chapters, 9-11 telling us that God is faithful and trustworthy to keep his promises, even when we cannot see it from our perspective.
        And so that is why is is so important for us to really understand who God really is. The life of faith is impossible without trust, and trust is impossible unless the object of our trust is completely trustworthy. I explained to "Diamond" that she was exactly right, then I started to recount the ways that the Bible tells us of God's faithfulness and his true character. "Diamond" looked up, and she said, "Yes, daddy, and we see God's faithfulness in providing for our family, so we can trust Him, even when we lost our house". Yes, just like that.
        The only way we can do walking in the Spirit is to be constantly reminded of who God is. We need to read the bible, because it tells us about Him, we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to speak the truth of God's love and mercy and goodness and faithfulness when we cannot see it for ourselves. And we need to pray that God will open our eyes to see His goodness and faithfulness in the trials and hard times. Then we can really trust him, and live lives that cause others to look at us and say "you make my head hurt".

Pastor FedEx

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