Part III Consequences to Misunderstood Experience
We have discussed how experience does not always equal truth in the first two articles. The first showed us how we need to test our experience to ensure it is true. The second looked at Cain’s belief that he experienced true worship, only to find that God rejected it. He felt like his worship was correct. God said while that’s what Cain believed he experienced, it was not true.
Before we move to the consequences of misunderstood experience, we should point out a subtle, but important nuance in the idea that experience always equals truth. When we say that an experience or feelings are not true, it doesn’t mean that people intentionally lie. In fact often the opposite is the case. They actually believe they are relaying the truth.
Often, these are not vicious people attempting to distort truth, but are well-meaning simply clouded by their emotions or feelings. They have unknowingly misunderstood their experience. This is why it is important to test the truth, as we talked about in Part I.
The issue is that our modern society attempts to make experience king. Although experience can be truth, the false equivalence that it always equals truth must be dethroned. Why not just let people live in their experience? There are huge ramifications to that thought process.
In today’s culture, if a friend says that he has experienced something and we attempt to point out the truth, we are deemed “hateful,” or are told that “we just don’t understand his experience.” Exposing the truth can be hard.
Should we listen to someone’s experience? Absolutely. God tells us in James 1:17b, “every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” There have been plenty of times that we have been wrong about a friend. Once we hear someone else’s experience, we change our understanding of the truth of the situation.
Society today unfortunately attempts to force us to believe every individual’s experience is the final answer to truth. Not only should we not explore that which we suspect to be untrue, we are not even allowed to ask basic questions to find the truth. Doing so is deemed insensitive.
There are grave consequences to this idea of experience as truth being untouchable. The reality is that it hurts everyone. What would be the issue with leaving people to “living their own truth” or letting people think that everything they believe they experience is absolute truth?
First if they believe they are experiencing something they are not, they are living in a lie. Lies and falsehoods don’t build people up, but destroy them. To let someone live in an experiential lie is not loving, but hurtful, harmful, and therefore hateful. The consequence of false equivalence that experience is often truth hurts the person who believes that everything they feel or have experienced is true.
For example, Jim believes there is something to fear because of what he believed he experienced, or others experienced, even though that experience was not true. Jim then lives in fear even though he does not need to. Or maybe he should be a little fearful, but he is very fearful because the truth was twisted, or the experience was blown out of proportion. Either way, unfounded truth robs a fearful Jim of joy, and living life.
Another issue for the person living in an alternative reality is that he may miss out on feeling loved. To let him believe that someone hates him, when that isn’t true, causes him a false experience feeling hated. Or, it robs him of feeling loved when he thinks that someone does not love him, even though they do.
Second, living in a lie often “bears false witness” against an innocent person. It can convict someone of something he has not done. None of us want to be falsely accused. This can destroy someone who is innocent. We have all been on that side of the ball, and know how it can destroy people. We should all be careful we are not laying false accusations against others.
In conclusion, we should listen to others’ experiences. We often have a lot to learn from others. That being said, experience, however, is not always the ultimate end of truth.
There are times when people believe they have experienced something that they misunderstood. Bring in wise counselors. Have them listen carefully, and take time to test everything to make sure that what you believe is true and what you are feeling is actual truth. There are many consequences at stake of this false ideology. We don’t want someone falsely accused, live in fear, or be robbed of joy or love because we have a misunderstanding of an experience or our feelings.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.