Innovation and creativity are often associated with a process called “thinking outside of the box.” But this process also can apply to understanding the world around us. When we constrain our understanding to our realm of experience, traditions, culture and even biases we constrain or color our perceptions of the things around us.
The nativity of Jesus offers an excellent example of such limited thinking. The Jews expected the Messiah to be a warrior king, like David. He would be of royal birth. So, how could this child from a backwater town, born to poor parents and placed in a manger be such a king? Herod the Great saw a rival for his earthly throne. Taking no chances, he executed innocents to protect himself. Later, the Sadducees and pharisees, people of great knowledge of scripture and prophecy, rejected Jesus as Messiah because He did not fit their preconceived notions.
Yet, the nature of the Messiah had clearly been foretold some 800 years before:
1 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. (Isaiah 60:1-6, NIV)
This passage is sometimes referred to as “The Epiphany of the Lord.” It foretells that this king will be king of all people, not just the Jews. It foretells that He will be a different kind of king than what the Jews expected. It was not the Jews, but a group of gentiles, the magi, who recognized this as told in the Gospel of Matthew.
This can be very useful in our understanding of Biblical history and the differences between Christians and Jews today. But it also has immediate, practical application to our Christian lives today.
When we restrict our world view to our realms of experience, education, traditions and such things as cultural and denominational dogma, we find ourselves “thinking inside the box.” As a result, we can’t understand, relate to or empathize with those with different views. This in turn leads to strife, bigotry and/or “I’m right and you are wrong” thinking. Those are tough words, words none of us would like to apply to ourselves. Yet they often do.
I am not saying that we should readily accept ideas that do not “fit” with our thinking. But if we are not open to listening to and gaining understanding the views of others there is no hope for peace in the world.
Alive in The Word