Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 3-6
Today’s Reflection: 1 Kings 3:2
The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD.
Though David had desired to build a temple for the Lord when he was king, a place where the priests of the tribe of Levi would carry out the sacrifices made to God. As God had instructed David it would Solomon who would ultimately fulfill this task, but before the temple was built sacrifices were offered at the high places in Canaan. Most of these high places had been built by the pagan and idol-worshiping peoples who once occupied the Promised Land. More than likely these high places were inspired by the attempt to build a tower to the heavens at Babel many years earlier. In other words, ‘high places’ represented man placing his own plans above God’s instruction. And yet it was in these high places where worship to God was happening as the Israelites simply followed the tradition they saw from their immediate ancestors. Even Solomon worshiped in these places.
It was a mistake for Israel to worship in these places. But it was an honest mistake. And clearly from God’s instruction to Solomon it was a mistake the Lord showed patience and understanding in correcting.
When Christ was on the earth, there was one group of Christians (known then as ‘followers in The Way’). Now there are by some counts over 30,000 Christian denominations. Conflicts and divisions have arisen over days of worship, observance of holy days, sainthood, the state of the dead, the nature and practice of spiritual gifts, church structure, the legitimacy of the papacy, and more. There are churches with doctrines on every side of each of these debates. More important, there are fervent believers on every side of each of these debates.
While there are issues where there is likely no single ‘right’ answer (cultural norms like clothing and styles of music and dance come to mind) there are other issues where it only makes sense to have a single answer. The Word is our guide to coming to an understanding of these answers (and the Word is the Bible read under the instruction of the Holy Spirit—it cannot be understood by human wisdom alone). But this begs the question, how do we deal with those who have a different understanding of scripture? This text gives us some ideas:
1) Be humble. Many with Biblical knowledge to share present it in such a way as to suggest that people without this understanding are lacking in some way. The truth is every good teacher knows they learn almost as much from their students as they impart to them. God has given something to everyone to share and as you reveal unknown truths to others listen for God may have to reveal to you through them.
2) Be respectful. It may seem that those who do not understand truths that you take for granted can’t possibly be as devoted to God or serious about their Bible studies as you. As today’s reflection text should make clear this may not necessarily be the case. Don’t assume inaccurate beliefs equals inactive faith. In fact though your knowledge may be greater, you may find your faith dwarfed by theirs.
3) Be patient and understanding. God took His time correcting Israel at this point in their history. Why? Because the point is relationship. Just adding or changing rules may seem arbitrary and strange. But when the truth is revealed over time in the context of a relationship it can be understood as something to improve or enhance the relationship. So take the time to understand why people believe and/or practice spiritually as they do. This will give you guidance and wisdom about when and how to introduce the truth. Don’t just beat them over the head with it. Present it to them in a relevant way that can help guide them to understanding and to see how this truth can improve their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
4) Be sure. All of this assumes you have a true understanding of the Word of God yourself. In addition to studying the Word as led by the Holy Spirit, it is important to be a part of a vibrant Christian Community that engages in regular Bible study and Bible teaching. As the Word teaches ‘iron sharpens iron’ (Proverbs 27:17). And be sure to practice what you teach so it’s more than just theory, but truly equipment for practical living. Remember, your testimony is your most powerful teaching tool. After you’ve tested your Holy Sprit-led learning with other fellow believers and through your own life experience you have understanding that can help and benefit others.