Fear of Being Fooled

Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 2.1-4
1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.

Pray……we don’t get fooled again.” — The Who

Reflection: Fear of Being Fooled
By John Tillman

People don’t like being tricked. I don’t even like surprise parties. 

Perhaps our fear of being fooled goes all the way back to Genesis? After the serpent fooled his parents, the Lord told Cain sin was a crouching creature to be mastered. (Genesis 4.6-7) We won’t be fooled again…we hope. Yet, over and over again, like Cain, sin masters us. The serpent fools us.

There are many stories we tell ourselves about our world being a deception. Free Guy, The Matrix films, and The Truman Show are just a few examples. In these stories, someone is living within what they think is real, what they think is normal, and what they think is good. But eventually, they find the truth.

Neo wakes up. Truman sails his boat into the wall of the sky. Guy learns about his creator and his imprisoner. In all these stories, someone is trying to fool the protagonist and someone is trying to free the protagonist. There’s a deceiver and a truth-teller at work.

Is it possible to go through life and never be fooled? I doubt it. If you never trust or put faith in anything, every time a true thing comes into your life and you refuse to believe it…you fool yourself. If you’ve been living with or inside a lie, being told the truth can feel like a trick. Sometimes, the skepticism that we think is protecting us, is actually keeping us imprisoned.

Neo, Truman, and Guy had truth-tellers who worked to free them from what they thought was normal, good, and real. These stories in our culture show our fear of being fooled and that searching for truth is arduous and risky. 

Skeptics aren’t usually out to try to harm believers. Most of the time they’re just trying to keep from being harmed. 

Skeptics in our lives need safe places and time for journeys of discovery. We need to allow them to work things out slowly, but that doesn’t mean the work isn’t urgent. We, like Paul, need to ensure skeptics that the gospel we share does not spring from error or impure motives. Words won’t be enough. It will take meals, time together, sharing experiences, and having difficult but respectful conversations about what is true.

As we help them search for truth, the truth will set them free.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. — Psalm 90.12

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 20 (Listen 4:15)
1 Thessalonians 2 (Listen 2:53)

Read more about Last to Believe
Far from putting Thomas down, John treats Thomas’s journey from doubt to faith with respect and tenderness.

Read more about When Skepticism meets Kindness
Sometimes we look at kindness and assume there is a scheme of self-promotion or self-preservation behind it all.

A Berean Take on Fake News

Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15
For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.

Acts 17:11
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Reflection: A Berean Take on Fake News
by John Tillman

Bereans do not have a Pauline epistle in the canon of scripture and the Thessalonians have two. However, the Jews of Berea are described in Acts as being “more noble” than those in Thessalonica. This nobility is characterized by engaging Paul’s teaching with intellectual curiosity and scriptural research.

Paul’s opponents in Thessalonica used tactics that were anti-intellectual and anti-scriptural and we should recognize them from our own Facebook feeds—exaggeration and falsification. Then as now, people ate it up. After they succeeded in running Paul out of town, they followed him to Berea, doxing him as a heretic and a political agitator. Even amongst the “more noble” Bereans, they were still able to cause enough trouble to force Paul to move on.

If you think people today are more sophisticated, more cultured, or more intellectual than those of the ancient world, you have been paying attention neither to ancient history nor to Facebook.
In our day, both progressive-leaning and conservative-leaning publications profit by pot-stirring. While it would be easy to point the finger at the media, we are responsible to choose a “more noble” path as consumers of content. Our sinfulness is the reason that inspiring fervor is much more profitable than dispensing facts and sensationalism is more clickable than sensible reporting.

In our Internet-connected world, cries of “Fake News” reverberate in the insulated echo chambers that we stroll (or scroll) through. These echo chambers are built for us by algorithms whose intent is to keep us scrolling, viewing, and reading and whose strategy is explicitly to not offend us with contradictory data, stories, images, or opinions that we don’t “like.”

Christians shouldn’t rely on algorithms to tell us what is important in the world. That is why we have Scriptures, the Church, and the Holy Spirit. Christians have a responsibility to not get swept up in hysteria, to not spread rumor as fact, and to not react in denial or anger when the facts cast a bad light on us or those we support.

It is bad practice to only trust news from organizations we feel share our values. No news organization shares your values. They value your “shares.” As Ed Stetzer has said, “Facts are our friends.” We need to seek the facts in more places than those that pander to us.

Christians need to develop a more Berean attitude about not only the scripture we read, but the news we share. It’s hard to share the incredible news of the Gospel when the rest of what we share is in-credible

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard; 
Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. — Psalm 66:7-8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 19 (Listen – 3:53)
1 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:53)

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Read more about Honoring The Truth
Seeking the truth is not only a spiritual quest. It is sometimes a civic one. Or a legal one.

Read more about A Berean Palate
May we develop a discerning, Berean palate that we not only apply to scripture but to our reading of our culture.