I touched the “like” icon on my phone, giggled, and kept scrolling. 40 seconds later I “loved” an article, then a status update, then another article. I read deep into a post from a friend, and thoughtfully tapped the sad face at the bottom. After a quick break to tend to my real-life children, I vanished into “liking,” “loving,” “wowing,” and “empathizing” across the borderless landscape of the internet.
At 9:30 I was in bed, reading a book made of paper. It felt strange not to be able to touch the page to publicly show my approbation, or, with three taps, to share an annotated copy with all my friends. I skimmed the printed letters, and stopped to re-read one sentence.
“Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” I Thessalonians 5:21.
Examine. Study. Dissect. Deconstruct. Scrutinize. Interrogate. Everything. All of it. Carefully. With caution. Thoughtfully. Meticulously. With precision.
A great many thoughts about discernment have been sprouting up in my world lately. They pop up in unexpected places, challenging me to be much more careful, even downright testy, about what I “like.”
Even my two-year-old is often more discerning than I am.
I stumbled through the darkness and into his room. “Mom!” he cried, “Where’s my blankie? I need my green blankie!” I felt through the shadows, rummaging across his bed till my fingers found the soft, plush edge of a child’s blanket.
“Here you go, buddy.” I tucked it under his chin.
“But, Mommy,” he wailed, “that’s not my green blankie! I need my GREEN blankie.”
“That’s it, bud,” I said softly, “that’s your green blanket.”
“No,” he whimpered, “this is my blue blankie. I need my green blankie.” He began to cry.
I rummaged again, up and down the folds of his bed, across the cool cotton of his comforter, till I found another plush edge.
“Got it!” A mommy’s midnight triumph. “Here you go little man, now go back to sleep.”
I crawled into my own bed, wondering how he could tell, in the dark, which of his blankets was green and which was blue. They are practically identical.
Except, green blankie has always been his favorite. It comes on every road trip, even if we are only getting groceries. He has dragged it through Walmart, across the beach, down many sidewalks, and through the church nursery. He snuggles it at every nap. It has a blood stain in the corner where he used it to patch his knee, and a little crunchy part in the middle that will never wash soft. It has soaked up hundreds of tears, lots of sweat, and the pain of a dozen falls. Green blankie is gritty. It smells like the heat and laughter of childhood.
That boy knows his blanket. He knows its touch, its scent, and its warmth. If green blankie had a voice, he would know its sound. The familiarity of close comradery set that blanket apart from all inferior blankets. If blankie were a pathway, my little boy would know every curve. If blankie were a song, he would know every lyric and lilt in the melody. If blankie were a teacher, he could recite its parables.
Albert Mohler observes that there has been a “disastrous failure of evangelical discernment.” Christians like me are snuggling with the wrong blankets, with theologies that stand against the teachings of Scripture, with inclusive soteriologies that devalue the cross and lead to eternal separation from God, with lifestyle choices and political viewpoints that are incompatible with following Jesus. My heart squirms when I think how quick I am to “like” what agrees with my selfish predispositions, and how slowly and clumsily I filter things through the ageless truth of the Bible.
Mohler argues that the way back to the simple, solid rock of grounded Christianity is to reacquaint ourselves with what the Bible says. A theological “rearmament” of believers begins with a willingness to dwell on the things in Scripture that seem repellent or hard to understand, things that are exclusionary, things that contradict cherished cultural values, things that challenge and reshape my beliefs about who God is, even things that cut hard across my convictions about how life ought to be
“Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.”
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the Church.”
“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
“Expel the immoral man from among you.”
“But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances.”
Without discernment, without a willingness to welcome what is true, whether it appeals to me or not, I wind up in the echo chamber of my own predilections, listening to the hum of a worldview I invented myself. Augustine is credited with saying “If you believe what you like in the Bible, and do not believe what you do not like, it is not the Bible you believe, but yourself.” CS Lewis argued that the parts of the Bible that I do not like are the parts I should pursue most tenaciously; because, in what I like least I will find what I need most.
I’ve been spending less time on the internet lately, and more time wrapped in the uncomfortable, healing pages of the Bible. Like my little boy, I want to be able to recognize truth anywhere. I want to know, even in the darkness, when I am being handed the wrong blanket.
Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not. Rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 HCSB