Embracing Ambiguity Helps Us Be Better Jesus’ Followers
Most believers want churches that give them definite answers on any Biblical question, but Scripture gives us a lot of gray areas, in essence ambiguity.
Ambiguity is defined as “the quality of being open to more than one interpretation.” This definition is crucial because it is the spirit of seeing more than one possibility and not dogmatic thinking on every point.
Now I definitely believe in certainty in many places of Scripture. But I also find there is ambiguity as well. Some cases in point:
· Faith that leads to miracles and faith where nothing happens. You might be thinking, you need faith as a Christian, so how does that translate to not getting what you believe God for? In the famous “faith” chapter, Hebrews 11, we find some interesting concepts. In verse 6 it clearly says “that without faith you can’t please God.” Then almost through the entire chapter, the author lists all the miraculous occurrences that happen because of the believer’s faith.
Then we come to verses 33-39. In the first part, verses 33-35a we see the miraculous happen consistently. “By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.”
Then in verses 35b-39 we see that things don’t go well for the faithful believers. “But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. Some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world. They wandered over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.”
Do you see that both groups had faith with no clear answer as to why one group got what they believed for and the other group didn’t!
· God is sovereign and man has a free will. In the book of Exodus we see Pharaoh’s heart being hardened. In several passages it says God hardened his heart (4:21, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, and 14:17). In other Scriptures it says Pharaoh hardens his heart (5:2, 7:13, 7:14, 8:15, 8:32, 9:34, and 13:15).
So the question, which is it? Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart or did Pharaoh harden his heart. The answer appears to be both. Scholars still debate how this can be, but that in my opinion is the answer. While those concepts are at odds with each other, the Bible doesn’t seem to have a problem with the ambiguity.
· Unanswered prayer. There are prayers that have gone unanswered, most notably Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21, where he asks the Father to make His entire followers one, just like He is one with the Father. Well I don’t know about you, but that unanswered prayer feels like a million miles from being fulfilled.
If God hears our prayers, and tells us many times in Scripture, he listens and answers, then why the unanswered prayer? There are reasons, but ultimately, we may never know this side of heaven.
Definite answers make us feel secure, but our security should be in our relationship with Jesus.
The question is how do we believers deal with ambiguity? Paradoxically, we need to embrace it, and not force a definite answer for everything. I also believe that accepting ambiguity makes us better followers of Jesus because it keeps us humble by not thinking we have all the answers. Also we can love other believers more easily, because we concentrate on our common faith, not on being right. That attitude can definitely help fulfill Jesus’ prayer of being one. How is that for certainty!