We are in the middle of an election season. As we look around at the political landscape we see that we live in hyper-partisan, very divisive times. There are many unfortunate and complex reasons for this… but one set of factors that always feature prominently are where and how people get their political news.
In the age of the internet, cable news, and social media, the experts have discovered that people, rather than seeking to be impartially well-informed about current events, are seeking those websites, channels, and feeds that most align with what they ALREADY believe. This phenomenon has been called the ‘echo chamber’ effect. We look for and listen to those outlets and people who agree with us and egg us on… fanning the flame of arrogance in thinking we are right and the rest of the world is wrong or worse… thinking of others as evil and as enemies.
The results of this kind of thinking are predictably catastrophic for society: it creates division and conflict, it propagates half-truths and lies, and makes it impossible to discern truth even as everyone becomes ever surer they are right.
The results are catastrophic for faith as well. There can be no true faith in an environment in which we rely 100% on our own perspectives and convictions. We need guardrails. We need boundaries. We need a truth that is bigger than us, independent of us, and to which we are accountable.
For we who follow Jesus, we have a system worked out for this. First, God is the ultimate authority, Jesus is the center of our lives, the Scriptures are our road map for truth and faithful action. Those who are most mature in Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience, are given the awesome responsibility to teach what is true and good and right with regard to our faith lives and commitments to God.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)
Its human nature to only listen for that which we WANT to hear, but, its sinful and arrogant. Sometimes we need to submit ourselves to a higher authority. Ultimately, that authority is God in Christ. Practically, the responsibility falls those who are most mature to teach us the ways and will of God.