We tend to project our own insights and motivations into the behavior of others. For example, a politician I know often accuses others of doing things simply for political gain, as opposed to honestly “for the good of others.” There is, often, no basis for such opinion, and when the accusation is spoken it usually illuminates the motivations and spirit of that politician more than it does the character of the subject person.
“Everything looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.”Pope and Donne
For example, just as a politician might assume political motives in others, a business man is likely to assume financial gain as a motive in others, and a man of faith may be inclined to imagine religion (or absence thereof) as a motivation for others’ actions. This is a dangerous habit. Let’s say Frank opens a discount meat shop. What does this tell us about Frank? Well if we accept the ideas above, we “know” different things about Frank based on who WE are. The calculating entrepreneur now “knows” Frank to be offering quantity over quality in an effort to increase profit. The charitable heart is certain that Frank intends to benefit lower income customers who might not be able to afford meat otherwise. We find ourselves in others. The fact is that neither know anything of Frank other than what is stated above. What harm do these assumptions do though?
One: We act based on these assumptions, and because we assume wrong we act wrong. The jihadist assumed violence and threat in his enemy, and executed a preemptive strike. The evangelical seeking political control predicted hostility in his liberal opponent and took steps to limit his fellow statesman. The LGBTQ deduced hatred and bigotry from my legal position and called me names as I entered a room. Let’s replace assumptions with dialogue! After all there are SOME that are still civil minded toward others. But if we assume the worst of others and act based on that, we will usually find the worst in others and sabotage peace.
Two: We project these type of assumptions on God, and end up worshiping a God we created instead of the God that created us. Christians: Why does the church’s influence in society seem so weak? (I single out Christians only because I am one) Because we (the church) have spent the last 2019 years making God something we can understand and relate to – making Him more like us – instead of allowing Him to make us more like Him. Let’s not fool ourselves. Non-believers see that just as clearly as a child can hear his parents arguing about him in the other room. We have lost credibility. God cannot actually be kicked out of schools and the public forum, if He is God, but He will not grace us with His presence if we are worshiping an idol. The unbelievers have not beaten the believers in today’s society, the believers have beaten themselves, just as in the Old Testament, by turning away from Truth.
So what happens when the church, which should be a beacon of love, is worshiping a false god, and men both secular and religious act based on their selfish assumptions? Conflict. Out the proverbial wazoo. Everywhere from starter homes to the world leader’s playgrounds. It all grows out of vanity.
“This is unrealistic!” I hear you. Releasing this vanity and these assumptions is not real-world talk, you say. Palestinians and Israelis (as an example) will never do this, you point out. Indulge me as I tell a story.
An Israeli Leader some time ago decided He needed a certain piece of real estate that was under Palestinian control. He could have, and stereo-typically would have, demanded it as his God-given property. He would have based this position on God’s grant of the Promised Land to Jacob and Moses and the family back in the day. But instead of making demands or assuming hostility, the leader went in peace to have a parlay with the Palestinian. Perhaps to his surprise, the Palestinian received him amicably because he came in a non-threatening manner. (He had plenty of power – he could have approached differently) They talked. The Israeli humbly asked to purchase the parcel. The Palestinian met humility with humility and acknowledged that God had granted the property to Jacob, and therefore Israel, back in the day. He therefore offered to simply concede ownership, but the Leader insisted on paying for it. The Israeli leader was waiving an arguably God given right in favor of good relations and respect. They agreed on a price and completed a peaceful transaction where war would be assumed. The Israeli was King David. The Palestinian was Ornan the Jebusite. The real estate was the Temple Mount, before the Temple. (1 Chronicles 21:18 et seq.
Peace is possible. Efforts to merely Coexist are insufficient.