So how much of what you read or listen to do you agree with? I have been criticized by some Christians for the kinds of authors I read. I read very widely and a lot. However, I read authors who profess no faith in Christ as often as those who do. Even within the Christian faith, I read or listen to many who think and believe much differently than I.
Why do I read people who are so different than me? Let me first confess that I used to brag that I graduated from the University of Michigan with an Engineering degree without having read a book. I am not proud of this now, but I was then. I used “Cliff Notes”, (something younger individuals won’t understand) to skim my way through the language art courses in high school and college. I am embarrassed by this today.
However, after graduating from college, I started dating seriously and realized I had no clue how to do it well. So I started reading books on dating and marriage. I soon learned that authors often didn’t agree on the same subjects, so I decided to read a lot in this area using my own mind as an incubator of what I was reading.
The subjects expanded quickly and my thirst for learning has continued unabated for the past 47 years since then. I learned that by reading people who disagree with each other and even me, I would learn and grow in unanticipated ways. My faith deepened and I struggled through my own issues and reading. My walk with Christ is so much deeper today because of the way I have been stretched to think and walk in new ways. I am not talking about deconstructing my faith as is so often discussed today by those who are jettisoning their faith. No, I was learning to love the Lord with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and strength.
So why do sincere Christians find fault with me because I read widely? Many followers of Christ think you should only fill your mind with people who think or act like you do. This doesn’t really promote learning; I would suggest it promotes confirming. These are totally different concepts. Learning means I am forced to think in a new way. I consider what I know or believe and weigh it with the new information I am taking in. Confirming implies I already know all I need to know and all I need to do is find more reasons to continue to believe what I do.
I am glad when I married Mary Kay I didn’t assume I knew all I needed to know about her and our relationship; even after 10, 20, 30, or 40 years I didn’t figure I knew all I needed to know. I am glad I didn’t just confirm what I knew (or thought I knew) when we got married, but I have continued to learn. Now, after 45 years of marriage, we are still learning, growing, and changing in our relationship. I am sometimes startled by something in her or me that I had no clue of before. We are still growing.
The same is in our relationship with our Lord. I hope you would be open to learning, changing, and even being surprised by some things which are different from what you thought you knew in the past.
Too many Christians find comfort in thinking they know all they need to know. There is no longer a seeking of God, or their seeking is doing it in all the ways they have done it before. Both the Old Testament and New Testament are filled with passages about our need to continue to seek God. We are to continue to grow in our understanding of our relationship with Him throughout our entire lifetimes.
I love Paul’s acknowledgment when he writes in Philippians 3
8-9What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.Philippians 3:8-14
10-11I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
13-14Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul considered everything a loss compared to knowing Christ deeply. He was so secure in this intimate relationship that he didn’t consider what he knew or where he was or even who he was at this point as something to hold on to. No, even late in his life when he wrote this letter to the Philippians, he still felt there was so much more to learn. So forgetting what he had learned, he continued to press on or strive to know Christ more intimately which surely required learning things anew.
I know Paul read material he didn’t agree with. He quotes a pagan poet in Athens (Acts 17.28) when he talked to the philosophers of his day. Paul was always learning right up to his last days on earth (2 Timothy 4.13).
My prayer is that I, too, will be learning and growing in my walk with Christ until my last days on earth.