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We Know What We Know, and That's All We Want to Know.
Preparing for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany: One Day Before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 36:5-10
Old Testament: Jeremiah 4:1-4
Gospel: Luke 11:14-23
Holy God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring healing to all wounds, make whole all that is broken, speak truth to all illusion, and shed light in every darkness, that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen.
We human beings are complicated. In any given moment, the human brain is receiving a freight train load of information through our senses—sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. The organ in our heads takes it all in and sifts through it trying to put it in some semblance of order. Not only do we receive this overload of information, we ignore much of it too. We learn to be consciously and unconsciously selective in what we accept and reject.
When it comes to discerning truth, this can be a huge problem. All of us struggle with confirmation bias—receiving information that confirms what we already believe while ignoring those insights that challenge it. In addition, we all can suffer from what psychologists call the Dunning-Kruger Effect—a cognitive bias in which we wrongly overestimate our knowledge or ability in a specific area.* Studies consistently show that we are drawn toward news sources and pundit commentary that confirm our views rather than challenge them. Perhaps it’s the brains way of keeping our world ordered. It is difficult to embrace life’s contradictions and complexities. Thus, confirmation bias keeps things simple and the Dunning-Kruger Effect convinces us we are right. We know what we know and that’s all we want to know.
In Luke 11:14-23, some know what they know when it comes to Jesus. They have listened to his teaching, they have witnessed his miracles, but because they don’t believe and refuse to do so, they put their confirmation bias on full display in rejecting what they see out-of-hand. All that Jesus says and does is conveniently ignored. Moreover, the Dunning-Kruger Effect has convinced them they know better than anyone the real cause of Jesus’ actions. They become ancient conspiracy theorists with a novel suggestion no one else has thought of. “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”
On other words, they suggest that Jesus is involved in what we call today a false flag operation—an act done as a disguise in order to blame someone else. If Jesus is in league with the devil, he casts out demons to convince people to follow him and away from the one, true faith of Israel as mediated through the religious leaders. It’s tantamount to the army intentionally killing some their own to make the enemy think those who committed the slaughter are on their side in order to sow chaos. These people can’t accept the obvious, so they believe the absurd.
Jesus easily points out that a divided kingdom cannot endure. Throughout history civil war has divided countries with devastating consequences. If Jesus is in league with Satan, then his very action spell the doom of the devil’s dominion. Of course, Jesus is indeed ransacking the kingdom of Satan, but not as an ally. He is accomplishing in his life what the faith of Israel had pointed to for centuries. Jesus is not attempting to lure people away from Israel’s faith, but inviting them to participate in its fulfillment; and that involves change. The biblical word for it is “repentance.”
Jesus has not come to this world simply to confirm what we already believe. He does not affirm to us that we have had it right all along. It is tempting to make our Lord after our own distorted image, ignoring those truths about Jesus that make us uncomfortable, those things that challenge our way of life. We cannot begin to “get Jesus right” until we embrace the truth that our Lord has not come to conform to our expectations; he came to insist that we satisfy his desires of us.
St. Paul tells the Galatians, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The New Testament is clear that before Christ can live through us, we must put to death those things in our lives we cherish that keep us from participating in the Kingdom of Christ that is defeating even the demons. It will do us no good to ignore the difficult challenges Jesus brings because they do not confirm to what we already believe. Nor should we reason that we know more about the character of discipleship than the one who calls us to follow. The Dunning-Kruger Effect has no place in Kingdom life.
Jesus says, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” It is not our task to instruct Jesus on the character of the Kingdom he brings. Our mission is to get in line and follow wherever that journey leads.
*Note: Psychology Today.
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