Unknown Tongues

November 15, 2017

I’m not sure this posting will clarify anything, but here goes.  This posting is a bit different and involves some scripture study mostly from Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.

The topic is tongues, or more specifically the difference between foreign tongues and unknown tongues.  To start things off, we go to Acts 2 where we see a well-known and well-studied example of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on early believers.  This occurred on the Day of Pentecost, just 50 days after the Passover, when Jesus was crucified.

In Acts 2 the upper room believers were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues.  But, this was a manifestation of speaking in an foreign tongue, not an unknown tongue, and was closely associated with ‘prophecy’ as was further evidenced by Peter’s reciting the prophecy from Joel regarding the outpouring of the Spirit in the last days.  In Paul’s discussion in 1 Cor chapter 14, he draws a distinction between speaking in tongues and speaking in an unknown tongue, although the language is not always very clear.

An unknown tongue is an expression of the Spiritual gift.  If interpreted it occupies the same space as prophecy and edifies (builds up) the church.  But, if the unknown tongue is uninterpreted it edifies the speaker, but not the church.  Paul basically discourages the use of unknown tongues in the church, unless it can be interpreted.  This is not a prohibition, but rather a means of maintaining order and avoiding confusion, as unknown tongues benefit the speaker, but is of little use to the church unless it is followed with an interpretation.

The only example we have of believers being gifted with the ability to speak in foreign tongues is in Acts 2, but that is not to say it hasn’t happened since then.  In Acts 2 this act was a ‘sign’ to the unbeliever, as each foreigner heard the works of God in their own tongue.  No interpretation was necessary as they spoke in a known foreign language.  Although we call this act ‘tongues’ it probably was better understood as prophecy in a known language, still a miracle, but not tongues in an unknown language that would need interpretation.

Once an unknown tongue is interpreted it carries the same significance as prophecy, which is also clearly indicated by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.  In fact, unless there is an interpretation for the church, Paul insists one should focus on prophecy instead, as it needs no further explanation or interpretation for the church to receive edification.

In 1 Corinthians 14 there are passages that have puzzled me for years, as they seemed contradictory.  But, in the light of understanding that ‘tongues’ could be understood to be either speaking in an unknown tongue, or speaking in a foreign language, some of the mystery and contradiction in this chapter can be dismissed.  The believers in Acts 2 were not speaking in an unknown tongue, they were speaking in a foreign, known tongue, that could be understood by the foreigners in the city at that time.

Now let’s be clear.  No matter the form, true ‘tongues’ is a gift of God and not man-made.  Not all tongues or tongue-talkers are God sent.  Paul instructs us to test the spirits whether they are of God or not.

If you are having any trouble following this you might want to study Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14, and associated study references.  There is a lot of ‘meat’ here…

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Testimonies

November 13, 2017

Testimonies are mostly good.  I say ‘mostly’ as there are some testimonies that are not all that helpful.  But, for the most part we can say that Christian testimonies are a good thing.

But, the strength and effectiveness of a testimony can be extracted from the condition of those doing the testifying.  There are some people who are in such frequent trouble, that there testimony consists of mostly telling others not to fall into the same trap he/she did.

For example, would you rather hear a testimony from a drug addict who has fallen and recovered a half-dozen times, or from a person who never did drugs?  This is a complicated question.  No doubt the testimony from the first individual would have lots of interesting twists, turns, failure, redemptions, self-reflections, rescues, and be potentially more riveting than the other fellow’s testimony.  After all, who could tell us more about drugs and the dangers it poses than someone who has been in prison for drugs a half-dozen times?

But, I think we may be missing the boat.  We somehow short-change those individuals who have not wandered down the forbidden path, who have kept themselves clean, who have resisted the temptation, and have given more attention and more credence to the ones who have been rescued from death’s door.

I suppose this is natural, but just because it is natural doesn’t always make it right. Sometimes we have reassess things, and look beyond the surface to see what is really there, and worth seeing.

For example, my mother-in-law was a sweet woman.  Tough, and tough-minded, but very sweet.  She made no speeches, she made no runs for elected office, she was not considered by the community to be an important person.  She loved God, loved her family, her grandchildren, and did everything possible to make life for them better than she had.

So, by all rights, she was a ‘non-person’.  A person of low importance.  A person of insignificance.  But, this assessment is flawed because it is using what we deem as important, and then putting her on the scale and seeing if she weighs out right.  But, we are using the world’s standard, such as wealth, fame, artistic skill, accomplish great things, built buildings, bridges, donated 10 million dollars to a hospital, and other important civic matters.  Instead we should have been weighing her life against Loving God, Follow His instructions, loving others, giving to others, helping others, forgiving others, teaching others, telling them about God, leading others to Christ.  When we weigh her life against those things she comes up as a top winner every time.

It’s time we weigh people not based on their looks, charm, dress, speaking ability, wealth, fame, position, or accomplishments, but on their character and ability to do what God directs them to do.  Their ability to love, and to forgive, and to give second chances.  Their ability to give without hope of return, their ability to help without hope of return, their ability to stand up for what is right, especially as it affects someone else, should be highly regarded.

We need to remember that in God’s army there are no big I’s and little U’s.  We are all working from the same basic standpoint, and while our abilities and talents and opportunities are different, Got does not judge us for what we do not have, but on what we do have.  He does not judge on us on what we cannot do, but on what we can do.

The size of the job is not important.  It may be small, it may be insignificant, but it is still important.  God will be the final arbiter.  He will decide who wins and who fails.  Who is rewarded, and who is not.

Until that time you need to keep doing those things God has instructed you to do.

Deciphering God’s Purpose

October 24, 2017

Much has been written about our ‘purpose’, and I won’t pretend to know more than the experts on this subject.  Let me just say I believe, and the scriptures support the concept, that every life has a God-given purpose.  The scriptures also support the concept that not every purpose may be fulfilled.  In other words, not everything God wants gets fulfilled.

This is hard for some to understand, as it would seem that if God is all-powerful He would get everything He wants.  But, the scriptures tell us that it is not His will that any would perish, but we are fearfully aware there are those who do perish, or refuse the provision God has made for eternal life.

I’ve already written some posts about God’s purpose in our life, but I wanted this one to focus on one particular aspect of this concept.  While it would be easy to think that every life fulfills it’s purpose, sadly this doesn’t always hold true.

Take the case of Cain and Abel.  At some point Cain murdered his brother Abel.  One train of thought would go something like this, “Well, Abel’s life was completed, and his purpose completed, so God took him home.”  This would sound ok, but it implicates God in the act of murder.  If Abel’s purpose and life was completed, then Cain’s murder could almost be justified, as it completed the plan for Abel.  Needless to say, there are some problems with this line of thinking, least of all, that God promotes evil in order to accomplish His plan.  The truth of Cain and Abel is a bit harder to bear, which is that the act of Cain shortened Abel’s life, and Cain was subsequently punished for this.

So, where does this leave Abel?  Good question.  The answer is not something we can fully see or understand, which typically means, people come up with their own answer or let their imagination fill in the gaps.  It is clear from the scriptures that what happens in this life is only part of the answer.  The ‘life-to-come’ is where many things will be reconciled or made right.  This is made perfectly clear in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.

So, what happens to Abel?  The answer is God will take care of Abel, and restore to him whatever was taken from him.  How?  I don’t know, as it is not fully revealed in the scriptures.  But the concepts of restitution, revenge, punishment, reward, and compensation are revealed.

But, on the human scale there are many atrocities, murders, thefts, mistreatment, false accusations, and the like which are never fully resolved in this life.  Will they always be unresolved?  No.  Some will be resolved in this life, and some will be resolved in the life-to-come, but rest assured they will be resolved.

Now back to the murder of Abel.  We should always be careful in associating God with using evil to accomplish His purpose.  This is a gross misunderstanding.  What God does do, is to turn those things meant for evil into things that are good.  Also, God does not always stop evil from happening.  But, we can safely say, there is nothing, good or evil, that happens without God being aware of it.

Of course, this draws us into the discussion about the ‘will of God’, including His Perfect Will, His Permissive Will, etc…

These definitions are used to help us explain things that don’t seem to have an explanation.  This is unfortunate, as it tends to distort the true picture.  The true picture would probably be best explained by saying, “We know God has a Will, but it is not always easy for us to explain or understand.”  This would probably be more accurate than coming up with different kinds of ‘wills’ of God.

But, back to Abel.  I think it would be a mistake to simply say, “Abel’s life had come to a point of completion, so God did not stop Cain from killing him.”  This doesn’t seem to express what really happened.  It might be better to say, “Cain acted from his own jealousy, and murdered his brother, cutting short his life, against the plan of God.”  But, once again, this raises the question, how does God make it right with Abel?  He punished Cain, but that does Abel no good, as he is dead.  In order to answer this question, we must have a missing piece of the puzzle revealed to us – that is, what has happened to Abel since that time?  And what is the future of Abel?  We are only given glimpses of the answer, but from everything we can gain from the scriptures Abel is fine, and will be fine in the future, too.  God, Himself, will make restitution, where restitution is required.

We need to be careful in associating God with the evil that is ever present in this world.  The enemy is out to kill and destroy, but God’s purpose is to give life not death.  God does not need evil in order to do good.

 

Where Will it Come From?

October 6, 2017

If one stops for a moment to think about how many needs there are in the world for aid and help, it is staggering.  Relief aid for hurricane victims, flood victims, victims of violence, the homeless, those needing clean water, the list is long and the need is great.

Where will the help come from?  It’s easy to think the help will come from large corporations or from those charitable organizations we see in the press every day.  But, that’s not really where the majority of help comes from.

Well, let’s see — maybe it comes from the rich.  No, statistics don’t show that.  In fact, as wealth increases the percentage given to charities actually goes down, not up.

Well, it’s not going to come from the poor either, so where does it come from?

Yes, that’s right, the vast majority of help and aid come from the middle-class.  You know, the ones who are struggling to make ends meet, the ones who are trying to give their children a better life than they had, the ones who are not on the government welfare rolls, and receive no free medical benefits.

The ones who go to work everyday, and try to keep their heads above water, and all the bills paid.

Why is this important?  It’s important from many perspectives.  It’s important because the poor have many avenues of support these days available to them at low, or no cost.  The rich have many options available to them, and in many cases, pay less taxes because of their ability to hire creative accounting and legal assistance.  But, those in the middle generally have no such luxuries or free programs.

Is anything I’ve said scriptural?  You might be surprised to hear me say, “Yes, it is.”  Consider when David was on the run from Saul.  Times were desperate, and at any time David could be discovered and he and his men would be tortured and killed.  Saul had inquired about David to the priests, and had 85 of them killed because he thought them loyal to David.  But, Abiathar escaped the slaughter and came to David.  But, David had his own problems, and was still a fugitive from the king’s wrath.  He could have told Abiathar, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.  You better get out of here and flee and hide.  Good luck to you.”

Instead David told Abiathar, “Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.” – KJV

In this one passage we have a prime example of someone who is barely able to help themselves leaning out to give a ‘hand up’ to someone else.  This, along with other things, made David a great man.

So, where does the help come from?  It comes from you.  And, even though you have your own problems and needs, you extend help to those who are less fortunate.  And, even though you are not rich, and your future is uncertain, you are not afraid to give aid when it is needed.

Will there be payback?  As surely as God lives and reigns He will repay.  Are you willing to wait and be patient for that payday?

“You Must Be Living Right”

September 30, 2017

I’ve heard this phrase throughout my lifetime.  It is a declaration given when things are going your way, or everything seems to be going right.  It feels good, and sounds good, even though it is not always correct.

Often, we have assumed if good things happen to someone, including ourselves, “they must be living right.”  After all, why would good things happen to bad people?  Conversely, when bad things happen to someone, we sometimes wonder what they did wrong.  After all, why would bad things happen to good people?

These misconceptions, and misinterpretations have caused countless problems in the body of Christ.  We are confused.

The truth is a bit harder to take – bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people.  In short, you cannot look at what happens to a person or family and determine exactly what they did right or wrong.

I know this flies in the face of some folks, and they would not agree with my analysis, but that is ok, as I believe the scriptures bear out my assertions.

Now let’s be clear – no one is going to get away with anything.  If they have done evil, and have not received proper justice in this life, you can rest assured they will not escape judgment from God.  Likewise, if an individual has done right and received evil in this lifetime, you can rest assured God will make it right in the life to come.

The biggest problem is we want to see everything ‘righted’ in this lifetime, and we don’t always see that.

So, what is the point?  The point is simply this – while we make a big deal out of the righteous receiving benefits in this life, which they do, we should also understand the unrighteous often receive benefits, too.  This is born out by the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.

Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man to illustrate how far things can be out of line in this world, but are straightened out in the world to come.  He used extremes in this example.  The rich man had everything this world had to offer, and it appears he didn’t suffer one day of his earthly life.  He lived in luxury and comfort.  Free from worry, fear, anxiety, hunger, or any illness.  The scriptures say, ‘he fared sumptously every day’, indicating he was at the peak of human existence.  By comparison, Lazarus was at the other end of the spectrum.  He was poor, hungry, and sick.  It says he was laid at the rich man’s gate indicating he was also crippled.  He was on the bottom rung of the ladder of life.  But, as Jesus relates this story we know so well, things changed once this earthly life came to an end.  Things were ‘righted’.  Things were put into their proper place.

So, my friends, you cannot tell what is going on with a person by how well they live, whether they are rich or poor, whether they are sick or healthy, whether they are loved or hated.  Although we often judge people by these things, it cannot always be accurate, as illustrated by Lazarus and the rich man.

Depression

September 29, 2017

I guess it is important to qualify this post.  I’m not discussing clinical depression, which I’m not qualified to talk about.  I’m focusing this post on the kind of depression we all feel from time to time.  Everything goes wrong, things pile in one on top of another, and the friends we thought we had are nowhere to be found.

When this happens, we usually feel alone, and generally feel as if we are the only ones in this dark place.  Our memories don’t generally help us either, as we tend to remember those things that are sad or caused us distress or heartache.

I won’t pretend that these things can be swept away with a simple, “Cheer up”, or “Things could be worse”.

I don’t have a solution, or quote for you that will dispel the clouds of despair.  Instead, I will remind you that you are not alone.  In fact, all people at some point in their life experience periods of depression.  Some of us go through it more than once.

Not only are we not alone, but historically famous and ordinary folks have experienced these feelings, too.  In fact, the Bible is full of examples of individuals facing their own depressing moments.  Moses, Elijah, David, and most of the prophets expressed their own despairing moments.

While we cannot avoid those periods of grief, despair, and sadness that come into our life, we do not have to make a permanent residence there.  It may last long enough that you need to erect a tent to keep you out of the cold and damp, but you do not need to pour concrete for a permanent foundation.

Because it is so common, there must be reasons why God would allow these things to happen.  While I cannot pretend to know the mind of God, I think I can say with some confidence periods of grief and depression do cause us to reflect and to reassess.  There’s no need to condemn or to punish ourselves, however.  The reflection is merely an acknowledgement between ourselves and God that we are not perfect, at least not yet.  It is an acknowledgement we are a work in progress, marred, perhaps, but still on the potter’s wheel being molded by His strong hands.

Because I’m limited in my understanding and wisdom, I know of only one method that works when fighting depression or sadness.  You must find a way to help someone else.  That’s right.  At a time when you cannot even help yourself, you must find the strength and will to help someone else.  In doing so, it will help lift the cloud of despair and helplessness and self-pity, which cannot heal itself.

Can you simply snap your fingers and things will change?  Probably not.  But, as long as we have ability and strength we have the ability to help someone.  You may say, “I don’t know how to do that?”  You are pretty smart, so I say, “Find a way.”

THINK

September 27, 2017

In 1915 Thomas Watson was named President of Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR).  By 1924 he renamed the company, International Business Machines (IBM).  Watson was a strong-minded man and believed in running the business by proven rules that lead to success.

In order to encourage his staff to ‘think’ he had a sign created that hung in his office.  It simply said, “THINK”.

Thomas Edison was one of the world’s greatest inventors.  By his death he had accumulated 2,332 patents, many of which still impact our lives today.  Edison was a self-made, self-taught individual with not much more than an elementary school level education.  But he famously was quoted as saying, “There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the real labor of thinking.”

If anything is in short supply these days, it is individuals who undertake the real labor of thinking.  To put it bluntly – we have been dummied down for far too long.

We have become reactionary, impulsive, emotional, full of ideas, and ideology, and have lots to say, but much of it has come without thinking.  We have left our brain on the pillow, and as a result our jaws are flapping under their own power.

But, let’s be honest.  Thinking is hard.  It carries risk.  If we think, there is the chance of failure.  If we think, and things don’t turn out like we planned, we may be open to ridicule.  Contrary to many fine books, novels, and movies thinking individuals are not always rewarded.  In fact, they are often punished.

So, what should one do?  The answer, not surprisingly, is in the scriptures.

“Come now, let us reason together..”, says the first portion of Isaiah 1:18.  This term ‘reason’ might be restated as ‘think’.  “Come now, let us think together..”

This is an invitation from God, Himself, to His creation to think and reason with Him.  Although this scripture details us reasoning together with God regarding our sin, it is pretty clear to me, that may not be the only topic God wants to discuss.  But, in order to have a meaninful conversation with God, there does seem to be a standard requirement – THINK.

Being Human

September 24, 2017

As with many of my posts this one may seem a little different, but hopefully before I’m done it will make more sense.

People have many different views of God.  Some see Him as a grandfatherly figure, who pats everyone on the top of the head.  And some see Him as a distant, harsh figure who is above our ability to touch or affect.  Still others view Him through the lens of the Christ as described in the Gospels.

Actually, He is all of the above, and then some.  But, one thing he is not – He is not who we imagine Him to be, or someone who is bound by our human experience.  What does that mean?  Well, for example, whether we like it or not, we bound by time.  It relentlessly pushes us forward, and despite our best efforts, we cannot turn the hand of time backwards.  But, God is not limited by time.  In fact, if we could accept it, time is one of the ‘created things’ that God put into existence.  If He created it, then He is not bound by it, or limited by it.  If God wants to, He can turn time backwards.

Not only is God not limited or controlled by time, but He doesn’t view it the same as we do.  The scripture tells us that a thousand years is to the Lord as one day.  Which simply means that to us two thousand years have passed since the birth of Christ, but to God it has only been two days.

Why bring all this up?  One simple reason – we sometimes tend to make God like us, not recognizing we are the ones made in His image, not the other way around.  So, in some instances we think we know the mind of God, and make predictions about what He will, or will not do.  But, that is to ignore the simple truth that He does not operate the same way we do.

Whether we like it or not, we are highly driven by our emotions versus our intellect.  Emotions are unpredictable, unstable, and many times unreliable.  However, they are powerful, and largely make up who we are as human beings.  Emotions, although they have problems, are created by God, so they are not ‘bad’ things.  So, here’s the big question – is God emotional?

The answer to this is simple – yes, He is, but, there are differences.  For one – God is not driven by His emotions or whims, which does not mean He is unfeeling or without compassion.  It simply means His plan already includes provision for emotions, and it is steady as a rock.  Let me see if I can explain, as this concept is a bit hard to grasp.

Love is an emotion.  God loves.  Therefore, God is emotional.  This is true, but it is not in the same sense as we sometimes use the term ‘love’.  To us love can come and go, it can change, it can go from strong to weak, or weak to strong.  This is because our ‘love’ is mostly driven by emotional feelings.  God’s love is driven by something different – choice.  God chooses to love us, and this choice is not going to change.  It is rock solid, unmovable.  You can count on it.  You can bank on it.

Now back to my title.  Being human is perfectly well and good, as that is how God has made us.  But, being human should not cause us to think God works in the same manner.  In fact, we are blessed because God does not work in a human manner.  Humans fail, God does not.

Let me close out this post with this thought…

Have you ever pondered the sayings of Christ in the Gospels?  It was different.  It was not the speech of an ordinary person.  This is borne out by the officers who were sent to arrest Jesus.  When they returned without Jesus, they were asked, “Why haven’t you brought him?”  To which the officers replied, “No man has ever talked like this man.”  This would indicate that even Jesus’ speech was different.  It was coming from a mortal man, a human being, but the speech and actions were not.  They were from God.

Jesus spoke about ‘God things’.  Because of this He was often misunderstood.  His speech was from heaven, but we are from the earth.

One final note – you cannot understand ‘God things’ or spiritual things from a human perspective.  It is simply not possible.  You can ‘imagine’ spiritual things, and come up with some pretty interesting ideas, but that doesn’t make them true.  True spiritual understanding comes only from God Himself, through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  All other sources are false, and prone to human frailties.  Let me put this as simply as I can – your imagination and thoughts are not sufficient for you to know who God is.  There is no one wise enough, smart enough, inspired enough to know God by their own human thinking, reasoning, or meditation.  He must be ‘revealed’ to us.  How?  By His Spirit.  Through what means or channel?  Through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  We can imagine all kinds of other ways, all day long, but it is to no avail.  God chose to make a single door through which access could be obtained, and that was through His Son, Jesus Christ.  While Christians are framed as being ‘narrow minded’ or bigoted, because of this view, I should point out that Christians did not create this or decide this.  God decided it, long ago, even before Christ came on the scene.

Summary – while it is good to be human, just don’t bring God down to your level.  You are who you are, and God is who He is.

The Trouble with Generalizations

September 16, 2017

I will start this posting off with the humorous, but true, quote, “Most generalizations are false, including this one.”

But, even though generalizations are common, and mostly easy to make, we hear them all the time.  We hear quotes, many of them about life.  And we try to apply them to our lives, only to find that often there are pieces missing.  Things like, “Life is what you make of it.”  Sounds good.  Feels good.  Even feels good to say it.  But, it doesn’t always apply to all people at all times.

This is not to say these sayings are entirely false, or without merit.  I’m merely pointing out that they do not answer all of life’s problems or situations.  I like the, “Problems are just opportunities in work clothes.”  Makes you want to get out your hammer and change some things for the better, doesn’t it?  Well, unfortunately, it’s not always that simple, is it?

Why do generalizations, especially those about ‘life’, often fail us?  This is an interesting question.  In order to answer this I must assert a few generalizations – which was what you were expecting, right?

I believe generalizations fail because they only apply to some situations, and some people, and not to every situation or every person.  In other words, they are presented as general facts that apply to all things, but are really only applicable to specific people, times, or situations.

For example, when someone is down, facing financial disaster, marital disaster, loss of a loved one, etc… and we tell them, “Chin up,” it really doesn’t do the receiver much good, does it?

Generalizations fail because we want simple answers to complex things.  We want to ‘fix’ things.  We want everyone to be well, and do well.  We want everyone to be happy.  These are not bad things, but it’s going to take a lot more than a few good quotes or sayings to change things.

This doesn’t mean we can’t make things better, or help people.  But, it does mean that the quaint, “This too shall pass,” is probably not going make things better.  It’s not the sayings or generalizations that are wrong.  It’s our misunderstanding of the complexity of people’s lives that is missing the mark.

We could make generalizations about marriage and divorce, but they would mostly be wrong.  Why?  Because each marriage, each relationship, each divorce is different, and the people involved are different.  While there may be some basic common themes that apply to most, those are rarely the core issues in any given situation.  We want simple answers to complex situations, and there are simply none.

So, what is the point?  The point is we need to stop trying to fix everyone’s problems, and realize there may only be a few things we can really do:

  1. Love them
  2. Pray for them
  3. Don’t be critical or judgmental

Does this mean we are helpless?  Hardly, for these three things are powerful, perhaps, more powerful than we imagine.

Socks

September 5, 2017

I have two flavors of socks in my drawer, both black.  For around 30 years I’ve been getting the same kind of black socks, and I’ve grown accustomed to them.  Last year I received some additional black socks as a gift.  They are thicker, so when I go looking for a pair of socks to put on, they tend to get shoved to the back of the drawer, until I run out of my regular socks.

But, as time passes I push them back less often, as I’ve finally got used to them.  I still prefer my other socks, but I’m not offended by the new ones.  I realize the day may soon come where I won’t even think about if they are thick or thin, but just get a pair and put them on.

Of course, I’m not talking about socks.  I’m talking about biases.  And, I know, many of you are saying, “But, I have no biases.”  Ha.  The worse kind of biases are those we don’t even recognize we have.  Truth is, we all have biases, of one kind or another.  Some biases are harmless – I prefer Granny Smith apples over Red Delicious ones, for example.  But, some are very harmful – I prefer a white salesman over a black one, or vice-versa.

Biases are everywhere and not just limited to race or origin, although that seems to be the things the press focuses most of their attention on.  There are biases between poor and rich, young and old, pretty and ugly, big and little, smart and less-smart, educated and illiterate, white collar and blue collar, big house and little house, homeowners and renters, vegetarians and meat eaters, the list is quite big.

We make judgments and calls on things and people everyday, choosing one over the other.  Sometimes we do this without even thinking about it.  We shove the socks we don’t prefer to the back of the drawer and only engage them when we have run out of the ones we prefer.

But, biases can be conquered.  But, let’s not fool ourselves, overcoming biases is hard work.  Constant work.  It requires changing how we think, feel, and react.  For example, I know I will have conquered my preference of socks, when I’m able to reach in the drawer and not care about which sock type I pull out, put them on, and go through my day without one time thinking about the choice I made.  When that day arrives I will have put my biases to rest.  In the process, I expect to find that what I thought were unshakable preferences weren’t founded on good reasons, and that the new socks are just as good as the old ones, and maybe even better.  When that happens, then I’ve opened the door to other experiences where I reserve my prejudgment until I have gained more experience.

Just as an experiment, try this one out.  Maybe at church, at work, or at your social function, there is someone you would rather not shake hands with.  When it cannot be avoided you shake their hand and smile, but it is not genuine.  Mostly you try to avoid them.  Now, the challenge is to find a way to conquer your biases, feelings, and reactions.  The only way I know of to do this is you must engage your biases head-on.  That’s right, you must find that person and make sure you shake their hand every-time the opportunity makes itself available.  And, instead of a ‘fake’ smile you must learn to find the ‘real’ one.  Of course, this change does not take place overnight.   Like most everything else in life practice makes perfect.  Maybe when shaking hands you try to find out a bit about the person.  Not much, just a little.  Why?  Because the more you know someone the less offensive they may become to you.  Who knows?  You might find you have more in common than you thought.  At some point, if you continue to work this, you will find you have managed to stop shoving the thicker socks to the back of the drawer.

So, what is the alternative?  The alternative is to hold onto your biases, your hatred, and other harmful feelings.  These things will eat away at you like a disease, until finally there is not much left, and what is left is not very desirable.

We all have biases.  But, we don’t have to leave it that way.  Conquering our biases is not a one day job, it will take time.  And as I’ve stated, practice makes perfect, so if you fail, you try again.  My intention is to leave this life while still trying.  I may not get there totally, but I’ll leave still trying.  What about you?