Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to use a barber you can understand. I used to regularly visit a local barber for convenience sake, even though I could hardly understand his strong European accent. In fact, I found him so hard to understand that I had to ask him to repeat every question.
After a few visits, I found myself starting to guess what he was asking, which usually turned out OK. However, one time I was truly baffled when he asked, “Zurimeiwows?”
This was a collection of syllables I hadn’t heard before. After a “Sorry?” from me and an identical “zurimeiwows?” from him, I still had no idea what he was asking.
The problem was, I was too embarrassed to ask him to repeat what he’d said a third time while he stood there waiting for a response, shaver buzzing in one hand and holding my head still with the other. I thought he was probably asking if I wanted my lanky sideburns trimmed, a common question at this stage of my haircut. So I said “Yes.”
However, as he reached up with the shaver, he bypassed my sideburns and headed straight for my right eyebrow and the next thing I knew, jerrrrr and he was halfway over it, the shaver running at full speed. I’m amazed that my reflexes didn’t fling the clippers out of his hand.
Not being able to see behind his hand, I had no idea what damage had been done. Fortunately, as his hand lowered seconds later, I figured out what he had asked: “Trim the eyebrows?”
This experience got me thinking that there are a few jobs out there where misunderstandings could bring quite disastrous results. Take air traffic controllers, for example.
Controller: “Flight 24, mumble, mumble, mumble.”
Pilot: “Say again, traffic control?”
Controller: “Flight 24, mumble, mumble, mumble.”
Pilot to co-pilot: “Can’t say I’ve ever been asked to inflate the escape slides on an approach for landing, but I’m not going to lose my licence for disobeying traffic control.”
(Escape slides deploy.)
Controller: “Flight 24! What mumble do you think you’re doing?”
It’s also a good idea for plastic surgeons to have a clear understanding with their patients.
Surgeon: “So, team, this woman says she wants her chin shortened (good idea), her forehead raised (easy to do), and her nose rotated—what does it say . . . 90 degrees?”
And what about theologians misunderstanding the Bible? Can you imagine the screening process for entering church as checks are done for clothing with mixes of wool and linen (Deuteronomy 22:11) or determining whether men have trimmed the sides of their beards (Leviticus 19:27)? These biblical commands, which are almost certainly related to issues we do not understand today, seem very strange to us.
However, some theological misunderstandings can threaten our eternal life! Do your beliefs include such misunderstandings?
We have Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, atheism, along with many different denominations of Christian beliefs. But it’s impossible for all of these beliefs to be correct. Someone has to be wrong!
Actually, the odds are that we all have personal beliefs about spiritual issues that are incorrect. The problem is that none of us thinks we’re wrong. We wouldn’t hold the beliefs if we knew they were wrong. So logically, the entire world’s population is sincerely following at least some misunderstandings of truth!
Perhaps some of my beliefs are wrong; perhaps some of yours are wrong. How can we decide? Each of us should double-check everything we believe for ourselves. But where do we turn? For the Christian, the answer is simple: we base our beliefs on the Bible.
Of course, the multiple denominations and sects that make up Christianity are ample evidence that there is a wide variety of ways we interpret what the Bible means. So how can we be certain that our interpretation is correct?
An air traffic controller and a pilot can misunderstand each other on certain issues without serious consequences. But on certain other issues, such as when to land and on which runway, a correct understanding is essential.
It’s the same with Christianity. Some biblical teachings are more foundational than others. The most basic teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus died to save human beings from sin. The most famous of all New Testament texts puts it succinctly: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is the essence of Christianity. All those who truly believe in Jesus are assured of a place in His Kingdom. This is something all Christian faiths believe.
The Bible is full of instructions on how Christians should live. While differences of opinion exist about issues such as the role of law in the New Testament era, everyone agrees that God requires Christians to abide by certain moral principles. Make a commitment to live up to these principles to the best of your understanding.
There was a time when many people thought the world was flat. Then a man named Columbus set sail to learn the truth. He was willing to investigate whether a very popular view was in fact correct.
It’s the same with understanding biblical truth. Nobody has a perfect insight into all truth. We all have some beliefs that, if we could ask Him, God would tell us are incorrect. However, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). He asks us to study carefully with an open mind that is willing to accept a change in our beliefs when He leads us to it.
If you accept Jesus as your Saviour, if you commit to serving Him to the best of your knowledge and ability, and if you keep an open mind to accept new truth when the Holy Spirit reveals it to you, then you need not worry about possible misunderstandings that you may hold.
Some of your misunderstandings were no doubt taught to you as a child. You may find it difficult to put aside your strong bias toward certain beliefs. And perhaps there’ll be some embarrassment or inconvenience if you discover you’ve been living in misunderstanding. However, if you keep an open mind to change, God will guide you into an understanding of every truth that He sees is essential for you to know and accept.