Sometimes I wonder how I ever functioned as a human being before online search engines. How did I ever get to the right place without the map app on my phone telling me when to turn right and left? Did I really go to the doctor every time I had a question about swimmer’s ear or bee stings instead of using online medical sites? Many times when my teenagers ask me something, I advise them to Google it. This word wasn’t in my vocabulary as a child. My kids can’t believe the world still spinned before cell phones, laptops, and Wi-Fi.
The down side to all this knowledge at our fingertips is information overload—and unnecessary guilt. Years ago we didn’t have guilt because our kids’ birthday party favors weren’t up to par to those on Pinterest or because we found out that we paid more for the same shoes we could have bought online.
Occasionally, ignorance is bliss. On days when I scroll through social media too long, I feel my brain about to burst with everything from a friend’s sick dog to all the birthdays of extended family members to a stranger’s unbelievable medical challenges.
Knowledge can make us feel important, but it can have some downsides as well.
We oftentimes struggle to rightly apply knowledge and love to issues of conscience, but God wants us to understand that life isn’t always just about facts. Our questions must go beyond “What are the facts?” to “Based on the facts, background, and human tendencies, what is most loving in this situation?”
Knowledge was greatly valued and almost worshipped by the people of Corinth. While they didn’t have Google or Siri, they did spend time discussing all different philosophies of life. As a port city, they had people from around the world pass through their city espousing all different sorts of ideas. Paul wanted to help the Corinthian church members see that epistemology—the study of knowledge—wasn’t the only factor to use in decision-making as a follower of Jesus.
Like the Corinthians, we live in a culture where knowledge is considered power. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, 6 reveals how they struggled with knowledge: “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God… yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
I like to know the right answer. (Is anyone with me?) But God is showing us here that in some cases where we apply principles differently according to our various backgrounds, sin issues, personalities, or traditions, there is no one-size-fits-all principle to apply. What is right for one believer might be wrong for another.
We all face decisions of conscience where we must decide God’s leading for us personally while realizing He may lead others differently. When we start to think we have all the answers, we need to remember that we really don’t know very much. Rather than thinking we are always right and those who disagree with us are always wrong, we must realize that sometimes in matters of conscience others are simply different. As Paul reminds us, truth and love must go hand in hand as we seek to love God wholeheartedly and discern His will in our lives.
The power of these truths both lifts the weight of having to know it all and, at the same time, convicts me of my tendency to want to be right rather than to respond in love.
We can’t rely solely on logic and facts but, instead, must make decisions based on love. The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Through a vibrant relationship with God, we can discern the most loving thing to do in every situation. He calls us to live love even when we disagree—perhaps especially when we disagree.
All of us can admit that our past impacts our present. Our experiences can grow us in wisdom, but they also can make us extra-sensitive in certain areas. As we uncover the roots beneath our sensitivities, we can prayerfully evaluate whether God is calling us to avoid temptation or grow in freedom.
What comes to mind when you think of areas where we disagree about how to apply our freedom in Christ?
Address your own information overload today by laying aside all other thoughts and worries and meditating on one thing: God’s great love for you.
Slowly read and embrace these verses from 1 John 4:7-12:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
To learn more about living love when we disagree with others, check out my Bible study on 1 Corinthians. https://amzn.to/2SnR2yU