“Do whatever Sarah tells you.” Genesis 21:12
I believe one of the biggest obstacles we face in receiving and benefiting from truth, particularly the last 10%,* is our consideration of the source.
Why is it that a member from one political party will refuse to listen to someone from an opposing party? Why do parents sometimes not listen to their teenager? Why do members of one sex downplay the opinion or preference of someone of the opposite sex? Why does an employer choose not to listen to an employee?
You can call it a bias, chauvinism, prejudice, discrimination or a predisposition, but bottom line it is an attitude of superiority that prevents one person from considering seriously what someone else is saying. It is based simply on the fact that a person chooses to categorize someone else in a class of people whom they consider less than themselves – less credible, less intelligent, even less valuable.
How we receive and listen to what another person has to say to us reveals the attitude of our heart. Sometimes when people share corrective or critical things with us it can jar our sensibilities and literally be offensive to our world view. But God oftentimes allows our minds to be offended to reveal the prejudices that are in our hearts.
The Bible not only condemns this attitude of condescension, but mandates the opposite which is impartiality and justice. And the Bible is replete with illustrations of God dismantling such presuppositions.
A good case in point is the Genesis 21:8-14 account of Sarah’s approach to Abraham, which I referred to in my post “How to hear the last 10%”. When Sarah came to him with her demand to get rid of Ishmael and his mother Hagar, Abraham had to overcome a common predisposition of the day that relegated women to a “less than” status.
We can conjecture that on those grounds alone, Abraham could easily have dismissed her input as irrational female emotionalism, and overridden her request. But God intervened with a dramatic twist of fate. “Do whatever Sarah tells you.” He says to Abraham. (vs. 12) And with that simple pronouncement Sarah and her opinion on this matter are validated by God himself. That likely shattered every chauvinistic bone in Abraham’s body and psyche.
God is in the prejudicial cranium cracking business. There is nothing like a two-by-four of truth applied upside the head to awaken an unbiased Godly perspective irregardless of the mouthpiece sharing the last 10%.
Naaman, the Syrian general, faced it when the Israelite prophet Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan River for the healing of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:11-14) and Balaam faced it when his donkey spoke and corrected him (Numbers 22:25-33)
God even uses enemies to deliver corrective truth. The sobering story of the death of King Josiah, one of the greatest kings of Judah, illustrates this point. When his enemy, Neco, king of Egypt was moved by God to warn Josiah not to go out to battle against him, Josiah refused to listen. His choice to go to war cost him his life. Sadly it was Josiah’s bias against an Egyptian king that hindered him from hearing the word of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 35:20-24)
In this regard I am reminded of those immortal words from Colonel Jessep in the movie A Few God Men. Jessep’s character, played by Jack Nicholson, erupts in the courtroom under cross-examination by the young lawyer Lieutenant Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise: “You can’t handle the truth!” he bellows. Hopefully you and I can position ourselves and open our hearts when hearing the last 10% to properly “handle the truth.”
“Handling the truth” begins by NOT allowing a personal bias against the truth teller. That will keep us from receiving the truth. Those who have difficulty handling the Truth invariably do not recognize its real source – which is God; nor do they often comprehend the power and intent with which it comes. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Let’s cling to that promise and ask God to help us to be open to always hearing the truth, no matter from whom it comes!
* The last 10% is the content in a person’s communication that is often withheld for fear of rejection, misunderstanding or fueling conflict. It is the expression in total honesty and openness of a persons hidden feelings, thoughts or opinions on a subject, given regardless of the possibility of resistance.