My expert knowledge about myself is that I am not an expert. I do the best I can with the abilities and skills I have at many different things but if I encounter a task that is beyond my capabilities I submit to the experts. For example, if I am approached to provide counseling I immediately state that I lack those credentials and will help find an expert who is trained appropriately. For my new business, if I am asked to complete a project requiring expert electrical or plumbing skills I quickly defer to the experts with licenses in that particular field of work. I know my limitations and trust the experts who are trained and experienced.
To trust the experts is an appropriate response for any of us as we make decisions about moving ahead with projects, situations, and/or life in general. Listening, though, to contemporary discourse, we can discern that those experts and their expertise are questioned to the point of distrust. Why? Author Fareed Zakaria suggests that people have drawn predetermined conclusions about certain subjects or situations, that if different from the expert’s assumptions, then the expert’s knowledge and experience cannot be trusted. The more informed a person is the more likely these pre-existing biases come into play.
Zakaria’s insight is helpful in understanding the conflict that is apparent in the present discourse about the COVID virus. Expertise at any level is questioned, biases are proclaimed, and arguments have stakeholders unwilling to swerve in any unfamiliar direction. A harmonious future seems dreadfully distant if not unachievable. I’ll admit I’m quite often at a loss about how to navigate this unsettled landscape primarily because I lack navigational expertise in this environment.
What, then, do I do? I do what I do in other areas of ministry and work. I defer to the experts. In the case of the aforementioned unsettled landscape, I defer to one expert…Jesus. Jesus certainly had experience with conflict, and biases, and stakeholders in unsettled arguments. What are the lessons I learn from Jesus’ approach?
Paradoxically, Jesus as the expert didn’t assume the position of or act like the expert. When Jesus was entangled in a situation whereby he was expected to offer an expert opinion, he didn’t oblige but instead put the onus back on those who were hoping to discredit his expertise. This move by Jesus actually empowered the questioner to consider angles beyond their pre-existing bias. When Jesus said to those who accused a woman of adultery, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”, surely, they re-considered their earlier opinions and hopefully gained helpful new insights about human interactions.
Neither did Jesus as the expert pass judgment on those who questioned his wisdom. From the example in the paragraph above, Jesus didn’t shame the accusers by naming the inconsistencies in their decisions and actions. He, rather, offered them an exit from self-condemnation. In essence, he offered the accusers grace just as he offered it to the accused.
To approach our contemporary conflict in a Jesus-like manner, in my view, is helpful. Like any means of navigation, it takes some practice. I certainly haven’t reached the proficiency of Jesus, and perhaps will never achieve such competence. Nevertheless, Jesus is the expert to whom I’ll turn in acquiring navigational tools to plot a course through unsettled landscapes of conflict. Perhaps the destination will be complete with grace for all.
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