In our Microwave-Ready Instant-Information society, it seems common for ministries to put up a Core Beliefs Statement. While it might be titled differently, this is essentially a list of beliefs and ideas that the ministry or group in question believes and/or attempts to hold themselves to. Additionally, this functions as a sort of statement of expectation for anyone who wants to join the organization. On the one hand, this can be a useful way to figure out a little bit about a group before needing to waste one’s time on a group that believes something in gross opposition to one’s personal beliefs, but it has its downsides. Because this is a common practice there is an expectation that you will state your position on any and all potential religious matters that someone else might want to know about, and I think we have room for growth in this area.
I have a friend in ministry who once got an email where someone requested to know their “position on Israel.”
Its sort of an ongoing joke now, since the email was so strange and out of left field, but the truth is that my friend doesn’t have a specific position on Israel. And what exactly do they want to know anyway? Does he think Israel has a right to exist? Does he think the Jewish people are “God’s Chosen?” Does he think Israel has some sort of end-times purpose in God’s plan? There are so many different things one could think about such a vague question that it reminds me of when my patients’ families call the hospital and ask for a “status update.”
I always answer that question with a question: What specifically do you want to know? This isn’t a question meant to evade, but its just that there are just SO MANY things one could want to know about their family member, from how they slept and whether they were able to go to the bathroom to complex medical questions that I probably can’t answer without combing through the patient’s chart or asking the medical provider. In the same way that asking a vague question about a hospital patient is both annoying and needs to stop, asking those kinds of questions of a ministry is equally problematic. Why? Because we don’t have to have a position on everything.
Our culture has gone overboard in accountability to the masses, when the truth is the masses don’t really need to know everything. Jesus had a group of three close friend-disciples, twelve in the inner circle, seventy-two in his ministry organization that he sent out to minister, then his followers as a whole, then the general public. In other words, He didn’t share everything with everybody, and shared some things with only a handful or two. Likewise, if someone isn’t personally involved with me and/or generally involved in what I am doing, then my position on some things really just doesn’t matter. Do I have a position on Israel? Sure. Is it deeply involved and well-thought-out? No—because Israel as a subject isn’t that important to me personally so I haven’t spent a lot of time to figure out what I think about it. My wife, on the other hand, has very clear and specific beliefs on the topic.
Now, having said that Israel isn’t that important to me, I have just opened myself up for a massive debate on the subject of “Israel As God’s Chosen People”—one I refuse to engage. Why?
Because that’s the point—I don’t have a position, and I don’t have to.
It is perfectly reasonable to not know everything, and in reality, it is not only the most honest position but the most freeing one as well. Always having to feel like we know enough to measure up only puts us on a never-ending treadmill of theological need-to-knows that we simply cannot meet up with. So why bother trying? I’m not against studying the scriptures to learn new things, enrich ourselves and our lives, and to grow as people. What I do object to is this ever-rising bar we set up, like a buoy on the water that will continue to rise higher no matter how much the water level increases.
The next time someone asks your opinion on something and you haven’t given it much thought, just give that as your answer. Free yourself from the social need to put people in neat, tidy boxes. Be liberated from this bar of expectation that requires you to have and state your position on everything, and from the underlying and subtle messages that if you don’t do this that you aren’t smart enough, studied enough, or good enough. Step into the reality of the goodness of the Son of God who gave us the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation and who reminds us of all things. When it is time for you to learn something on a topic, Holy Spirit will be sure to let you know, but until then, you don’t have to think a thing about it.
And best of all, you don’t have to state your position.