Thursday, August 23, 2012

Discerning Discernment

       Frequently self-proclaimed prophets, godmen or messiahs throw in the balderdash of having an unusual acumen for spiritual discernment. Like madmen with a bramble-bush in the hand they swipe unconcerned at anyone who comes within the ambit of their messed up lives (see a parallel in Proverbs 26: 9).
       Every word that issues forth is to criticize every organization and person except their own and themselves. Since so many lay an arrogant claim to so important a function, how can we really discern discernment? Discernment is not given for bragging about its possession, it is given to act knowledgeably in awareness.
       Discernment in its very nature, and in all its expressions within the Bible, essentially springs from empathy and a self-sacrificing passion of concern either for people or for God or both. Anybody who has discernment can never be a loud-mouth. Bragging and arrogance are mutually exclusive to discernment. Then how can anyone posses it?
       True, that it is the work of God's Spirit. However, God never gives it to anyone who has not the ability to see or listen or feel. As a result, growth in the capacity to discern takes place through three levels.
       First and foremost, it begins with the capacity to see, hear and feel everything that can be explicitly seen, heard or felt. If you cannot see what can be actually seen, hear what can be certainly heard and feel what is obviously tangible, how then can you see beyond the unseen, hear beyond the silence and feel the intangible? Without question, to see, hear and feel more you must stop talking. Anybody who rattles non-stop is neither hearing, nor seeing, nor feeling. Anybody who is self-imposing is clearly self-centred. He has no other reference other than himself (or herself). How can such a person ever boast of discernment?
       The next level of discernment, is to see what most people can not see. This is actually specialized seeing or listening, much similar to the way a doctor sees an X-Ray sheet or listens through the stethoscope. Similarly in Hebrews 5: 14 we see "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." This specialization is an immersive absorption (not mere reading) of scriptures, in which this second level of discernment blossoms into moral care. It is a cognitive capacity for justice. As concern takes root in your heart, you begin to see what people don't show, hear through their silences, read between the lines and feel their heartaches. Essentially, it is a pastor's heart. The injuries of other's washes like an onslaught on your soul. Those who have this, know how cruel it is to have this gift because it is a gift of pain.
       The third level of discernment to see what is impossible to see. This gift is exclusive to those visionaries who are seen in history as transformers (Heb 11: 1). They see way beyond everyone else, brave odds and change the face of history. Abraham (Rom 4: 18-20 & Heb 11: 10), William Carey, Martin Luther, David Livingstone, Abraham Lincoln, John Wesley, Martin Luther King and so on are examples of this unusual acumen. This skill is also seen among many entreprenuers who have created new markets, or new technologies that serve people. A classic example is Jeff Bezos. He and his wife quit their lucrative jobs and kick-started an online book store, Amazon, that now markets more than merely books and bench-marked a new marketing trend.
       In the end, and in summary, a discerning person is not a rattling loudmouth but a keen and astute listener, who is available in the hour of need. He is the man of the hour.

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