I was recently with a group of friends and we were talking about how our perspectives limit our understanding of what we see going on around us everyday and in the news. Everyone in this room can experience the same event, one lady said, but we will all see it somewhat differently because of where we’re coming from. I will see something that “Tim” doesn’t see and he will see something that “Rick” doesn’t see. And I probably need to see what they see and listen to it, because I don’t see it all.
This of course is a fact of life that we are all aware of – just think of a traffic cop taking an accident report! But just as commonly we may not be aware of how much our individual perspective limits what we can imagine to be true. So someone says, You won’t believe what happened to me! And we may not believe it. Even if it’s true.
At the risk of oversimplifying this, let me say that our individual perspectives affect the way we relate to others and how we make decisions about things across the spectrum of life. How we vote. Where our children are schooled. What we think about the economy and our political leaders. The kind of entertainment we permit ourselves to enjoy. Who we turn to for counseling in crisis. Our views on spending and saving. What we think about climate change our nation’s foreign policy. The kind of church we attend, or why we don’t attend. What we drive, where we live, who our friends are. You get the picture. It’s your perspective on life and you are working it out all the time daily in the decisions you make.
The same principle holds true for how we experience the Bible and tell others about it. Just as I would tell that cop how I, myself, witnessed the car wreck, my perspective will also determine how I answer if someone asks What is the meaning of that Bible story? Of course, many people don’t experience the Bible at all. But even so, that is still a perspective. (A friend once told me that he had been talking to a guy who had never heard of Adam and Eve.)
For the past several weeks, we have been exploring the first half of the book of Daniel (chapters 1-6) through the perspective of the wisdom tradition. And here’s an important thing about that. That kind of engagement with the text has helped us to see a Daniel we may not have noticed before. Seeing Daniel through the lens of wisdom made possible insights into Daniel as a statesman/diplomat. Such insights do not emerge, in my experience, when one’s perspective is that of “Daniel the prophet.” You have to turn your head from looking at Daniel the prophet to see Daniel the diplomat.
As one recent commentator aptly said about the Daniel posts: They have “given me a great opportunity to look at him from a perspective that I have not considered. Our society and leaders could find a lot of value in the wise approach of Daniel.” To this I would just add that I hope it will also be of value to us lesser mortals every day, as we make decisions across the spectrum of life.
There is much more that can be said about Daniel the diplomat. But I want to move on now, to look further at what I often call “the diplomacy of wisdom,” as it is seen in other, perhaps surprising, places in Scripture. So let’s now turn our heads from “Ezra the priest” to see “Ezra the shuttle diplomat.”
©2014 by Charles Strohmer
Image by Aphrodite (permission via Creative Commons)