I recently was working a job where I did maintenance. A common problem was with our air movers. Air returns have filters. Our houses have filters. Filters grab the particles of dirt and dust out of the air so we do not breathe them. But when our filters get dirty and need change they can shut down the clean air.
In the same way we have filters in the way we hear a messages. I hinted at this a little while back when talking about the church. Different people have different backgrounds. We see, we hear, we feel differently. If we have a background of works and pain then we are sensitive when a message has this sound to it so we shut down. Or perhaps we have a background of license and then we are sensitive to a message that has a lot of grace talk. Or perhaps we have a background with the Word being misrepresenting and so we are sensitive to when this happens etc.
A problem occurs over time when the filter is spent. In other words I have put up filters and rightfully so in order to filter the garbage. But, over time if we do not clean out the filter or simply change it, it starts to malfunction and starts to prevent clear passage. This is a problem in HVAC and it is a problem in communication. If we always bring our hurts and pasts to the table and never clean out the filters then we will always hear what we fear. What happens if we loose the ability to hear outside of our experience?
We can see how our own culture has changed into the kind of people who cannot hear beyond its filters/pain/experience. We do this and we refrain from entering into any kind of useful dialog because our offense siren will not turn off. In other words we assume.
I don’t need to tell you what happens when we do that. The bigger problem is however overtime we do not simply not hear, we can’t hear. The actual message is gone and instead what we see is enemies and offenses all around and we do not engage. We do not hear the encouragement that was there. We do not hear the life that was there. We most certainly do not hear the exhortation that was there. Our filter is clogged and over time we begin to think that the it’s air that is dirty.
I am sure at some point something I have written has pricked someone the wrong way. Perhaps I wasn’t clear or I was insensitive. This is something for me to work on for sure. But what all of us can work on is how we filter information. This is a problem of our culture for sure, but again this is not a blog for the world to fix itself with, this is for the church. If as Christians we do this then we risk missing out on something God may have for us.
I think we get a picture of this from the story Joseph and his brothers.
Joseph has these awesome dreams about what God was going to do his life. Joseph perhaps naively thought that his brother would rejoice with him over the revelation from God. His brothers misunderstood his excitement for pride and wanting to rule over them. Their filters of jealousy and competition for their father’s love ended up with them selling him into slavery. A misunderstanding perhaps?
Another example is David and Saul.
David only ever wanted to serve the King and God but his deeds continually out paced the King’s. Unfortunately all Saul could feel was jealousy over loosing his throne and kingdom. He could not see the ally that God had brought him because of his filter of fear of loosing what he had and jealousy of a more popular man among the people. He was blinded to the relationship that God put in his life and would not heed what God was doing. A misunderstanding perhaps?
Another example is our course Jesus and his disciples with even the pharisees.
On many occasions Jesus was simply misunderstood from the people he was speaking to. Jesus had to stop and clarify many times to the disciples because they were not tracking with him. They had their natural filters out and could not see the spiritual things he was communicating. Perhaps rightly so, in this case, but then even Jesus had to take the time to make his message known. Even Jesus with all his communication gifts had to take the time to clarify himself with the people he wanted relationship with.
I understand that Jesus is perhaps in a different category from the rest, but he still gives us the example of needing to clarify. This is especially true when communicating with the world. They may hear certain things we are not saying. We may however also be saying things we are not meaning. So clarify, understand, listen, we may yet be able to communicate the gospel to a dying world, but we will never do it we can’t first communicate to one another well. Misunderstandings are going to happen, from a writer’s/speaker’s perspective we need to take the time to clarify the message. From a reader/listener perspective we need to take the time to clean or change our filters.
Talking past each other is a real shame, in the church and outside. This inability to communicate well has led our country collectively to become the “walking wounded”. If we do not work through our pain filled filters or tear down our sharpened tongues we will no longer communicate anything other than hurt. When everyone is a victim, nobody has a problem to work on. When we foster a society of blame, nobody grows. As Christians we should want to change this.
Why? Because we want to hear God when he speaks, Don’t we?