“…how is it that ye do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:56)
Vibrant colors everywhere. I love this time of year. In college I learned that inside every leaf there are miniature color factories that on a cue from nature begin to kick in and out-produce the chlorophyll factories that have made the leaves so green through-out spring and summer. I viewed them with a microscope and even drew pictures of what they looked like. As those factories begin to fulfill their duty, various shades of yellow ranging from pale lemon to deep golden hues, with bright almost neon yellows somewhere in between, begin to emerge and then dominate. Light tangerine orange shades running all the way to bright Tennessee orange hues start to take over. Reds varying from candy apple or fire-engine to an almost violet hue begin to dominate.
Growing up in Western North Carolina (where the largest variety of tree species in the world exist) fall was almost always marked with a brilliant display of God’s kaleidoscope of colors. The mountains almost appeared ablaze with his handiwork. When we saw those autumn colors begin to dominate we knew that fall was upon us and winter was just around the corner. We started thinking of packing away the summer clothes and pulling away the summer clothes and pulling out the sweaters. Preparations certainly had to be made for the changing times.
It reminds me of a question Jesus asked as he spoke intimately with his desciples one day. He said, “…you can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern the time?”
We see clouds start to rise up out of the west and we figure rain is on its way. We see winds begin to blow up from the Gulf of Mexico and we discern a warm spell is headed our way. But we have a hard time reading the spiritual condition around us.
The same discussion is mentioned in two different gospels. One is in Matthew and the other is in Luke. Interestingly, and I believe intentionally, God inspired the use of two different words for what the King James version simply translates as “discern” in both instances. The statement made and the question asked by Jesus use two very distinctly different words according to whether you are reading it in Matthew’s gospel or Luke’s gospel.
In Matthew 16:3 the word for “discern” used there is “diakrino.” It is a compound word—a combination of “dia” meaning “distinquishing.” But the essence you and I need to capture of this word is that “through distinquishing,” you and I make a discernment to condemn or reject that which is wrong.
However in Luke 12:56 the word for “discern” there is “dokimozo.” This word means to “test” or “examine.” But the purpose of this “testing” or “examining” in this case is to “accept,” “affirm,” or “approve” that which is right.
You know, to be a disciple of Christ it takes both. We have to work through issues to figure what is wrong and reject them. Yet, at the same time we also have to test and examine other issues to make sure they are right and accept and affirm them.
Very few things in our world today are clearly black and white. Most everything has been blended to a muddled gray. A lot of decisions are made by what is called “situational ethics.” We don’t discern the occasion, we simply make a judgement call often based more upon emotion or feelings than the actual rightness or wrongness of the situation. But Jesus was indicating that his followers ought to do better. In fact, he declared that we are nothing more than a hypocrite if we cannot learn to discern the times.
As I have studied these two passages, I have felt the need to confess and to request God’s help in better discerning the times. How about you? As this new church year begins, will you ask God to help you discern the times.