“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:2
There’s an old riddle which goes like this: “A blind beggar had a brother who died. What relation was the blind beggar to the brother who died?”
If you ask several people this question, they’ll probably all say, “Brother.” But they’d be wrong. The blind beggar was the sister of her brother who died. The reason we say “Brother” is because we jump to a false assumption. We assume the blind beggar must be a man.
Here’s a conundrum. You have exactly $101 in your pocket. You have just two notes and no change. One of the notes is not a $1 bill. What are they?
Most people struggle with this poser. They’re misled by the ambiguity in the wording. One of the notes is not a $1 bill. That is correct – it is a $100 bill. So the solution is the simple one of a $1 bill and a $100 bill.
Ambiguities occur not just in conundrums but in every sphere of life. As a preacher I’m amazed by the assumptions that people can make based on what they thought they heard me say. People take statements out of context and use it to fit their own preconceived ideas. I shouldn’t be surprised. Making assumptions is a natural but lazy habit. But assumptions blind us. They screen us from other possibilities or options. Which is why when we jump to conclusions we often make the wrong decision.
The trouble is we make assumptions because we’re conditioned to believe that a new situation is similar to a previous situation we’ve experienced. This was the mistake made by the British and French military high commands in the 1930’s. Faced with German aggression they assumed any new war would be like the previous war but fought with better equipment. They therefore built the Maginot Line along the Franco-German border. It was completely inadequate. The German forces swept through Holland and Belgium in a blitzkrieg of fast moving armoured divisions and attacked an undefended section of France. All it took was some lateral thinking by the German generals and the Maginot Line was rendered useless.
Which is why we need to learn to test our assumptions. This is done by asking questions and by searching for inherent ambiguities. In part, I believe this is what Romans 12:2 calls us to do when it says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Since I was saved, I’ve sought to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Of course transformation is the work of God’s Spirit. I have no power to transform myself. But I must allow the Spirit to do His work and one of the ways He’s been renewing my mind is by teaching me to ask questions. He won’t allow me to take things at face value. I’ve learnt that God wants me to “test everything” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Some folk resist doing this. Once they’ve got their theology in place, they suspend the process of critical analysis except to reject anything that doesn’t fit in with what they believe. They prefer everything nicely packaged, everything making sense. But God can’t be put in a box. The finite will never have the measure of the infinite. There’ll always be an element of mystery when it comes to the things of God. So if we’re earnest about following Him we need to be prepared for God to occasionally take our preconceived ideas and turn them inside out. But then, that’s what transformation is – being turned about.
So don’t jump to conclusions. Exercise judgement. Try to see things from God’s perspective. And don’t assume too much. For there’s an old saying that to assume “makes an ass out of u and me.”