Dissonance and Discernment


“Christianity is always out of fashion because it is always sane; and all fashions are mild insanities. …The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer. It keeps the key of a permanent virtue.”


~G.K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross.


Looking back at pictures of myself from high school, my teenage students are baffled that I wore my hair as I did on purpose.  Needless to say, my late 80s, early 90s coiffure has not aged well.  But at the time, I thought I looked great.  Many fashion trends have suffered the same fate.  Trendiness, by definition, does not take the long view.  


Ideas are much more significant than the cut of one’s blue jeans or the length of one’s hair, but they are often imprisoned by the pressure of the moment.  In culture, there is an almost constant demand to fashion our thought-lives and interactions with others by the direction society winds are blowing.  


But what if there was a way to anchor our hearts and minds in something real?  What if there was a way to compassionately navigate the constantly changing waters of what is socially acceptable?  


Consider the words of the author of the letter to the Hebrews in the first Century:


“God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”


Hebrews 6:17-19 – New Living Translation


The writer’s use of the word “unchangeable” is particularly useful and pertinent here.  The One who stands beyond the ebb and flow of history has spoken into our world.  He does not change His mind.  He is not bound by anything.  His compass is true and unaffected by the pull of gravity and the minds of men.  We can think and speak and act in the light of His thoughts and speech and action with “great confidence”.  The God of creation entered into His creation in the Person of His Son.  It is a moment in history that imbues every other moment of history with color and purpose and hope.  


We can navigate the turbulent waters of any culture in the knowledge that there is a way to interact with our neighbors that is unbound by forces we cannot control.  We can speak into the insanity of fashionable ideas with the confidence that there is a source that is uncontrolled by them, and us.  We can sing in the key of permanent virtue because there is Someone who has sung perfectly before us.  All we need to do is listen and listen well.