“Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:2-3
I had this thought today: I don’t know why I’m spending money on a Masters degree, because apparently all I need to do is read a few articles on the internet about something I have little knowledge of (that already confirms my own biases, by the way) and I’ll immediately be an expert! 😉
Note: THIS IS A JOKE, but there is a tinge of truth in it as well. Studies say that it takes about 10,000 hours in a particular field to be considered an “expert.” Author Malcolm Gladwell stated such in his book, “Outliers,” adding that it takes 10,000 hours or approximately 10 years of deliberate practice (more on this later). I have not kept count, but between studying, preaching, teaching, more studying, preaching, teaching, classes conferences, etc., I have spent many hours in the field of theology. According to Gladwell, I might qualify as an “expert.” But I feel nothing of the sort. In fact, I feel quite the opposite.
The more I have learned about God – His Word, His character, His ways – the LESS I feel like an expert. Honestly, the more I learn about ANYTHING, the less I feel like an expert. Every time I learn something new, the more I realize there is so much I don’t know – about life, about God, and even about myself. And that’s okay. There are only two things in which I want to be an expert. The first (but not most important) is to be an expert in learning. No matter how much I know, there is always more to learn, more to experience, more questions to ask, etc.
I think we would all do ourselves a favor if we took the same approach. I am confident I have a lot to offer because of all that I’ve learned and experienced, but I’ve also become self-aware enough that I understand my knowledge and understanding is INCOMPLETE.
My goal as a leader has shifted from persuading others that what I believe is true to inspiring others to always be in pursuit of truth, understanding that we will NEVER (this side of heaven anyway) get to a place of knowing everything. I am convinced that what I believe about Jesus is true, but I’m also convinced that there is SO MUCH MORE about Him that I’ve yet to uncover. Taking this attitude has not only expanded my knowledge about a lot of things, but it has also helped me become more compassionate, empathetic, merciful, gracious, and patient with other people. I’ve not yet mastered this, mind you, but I’m a lot better today than I was 10 years ago, and I hope to be a lot better 10 years from now than I am today.
This leads me to the second, and most important area in which I want to be an expert: love. And not just a worldly concept of love, but love as defined by Jesus: to love others as He has loved me. For it is by this, and this alone, that people will know I am a follower/student/disciple of Jesus. (Jn. 13:34-35) The context of the scripture at the top of this post is the eating of food sacrificed to idols. Paul tells the Corinthian believers that while they know, and he knows, that eating food that has been sacrificed to an idol (pagan deity) will not bring about some kind of judgment or curse from God, it is better to not eat it if doing so might cause someone else to struggle. Verse 9 says, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” By “weak,” Paul is not insulting others, but merely stating that not everyone will understand the freedom one has in Christ, and we should not freely exercise our rights at the cost of it causing someone else to be “destroyed by your knowledge” (v.11). He goes on to say it would be a “sin” against that person (v. 12).
The point is that even when there is knowledge, that knowledge is never to trump the call to love others as Christ has loved us. Jesus, in many ways, laid down His knowledge and His rights to come to our world and love the very ones He created, even though it would mean being killed by them. His knowledge of us, our past, our future, heaven, etc., did not take precedence over His mission to love us right where we were/are. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” I don’t want to be known for what I know, how much I know, or even who I know. All I want is to be known by God, and for others to experience the same. All the knowledge in the world can’t replace love. “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I. AM. NOTHING” (1 Cor. 13:2).
Notice the qualifier of becoming an “expert,” is 10,000 hours or 10 years of deliberate practice. This means intentional, focused learning on the subject. This involves wrestling with the hard questions, looking at the field from various angles and perspectives, acknowledging those different perspectives, and engaging respectfully with them. To learn something only to use it as a weapon is not proper motivation for learning, nor does it make one an expert. The motivation must be out of love for other, and contributing to that field in order to make the world a better place for ALL. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is worthless. The more I know, the less I care about what I know. The more I know, the more I only want to be known by God and known for His love, so that others might know and be known by Him. You know?