I didn’t know! Discernment is a word commonly used in Christian circles, but recently I was surprised learn that I had improperly discerned the Biblical meaning of discernment. Sometimes mentalities are so common that we rarely think to question them.
Discernment in the New Testament refers primarily to perception or insight. It also involves the ability to distinguish right from wrong.
The problem for many Christians is that our emphasis seems to almost always be on discerning wrong from right. We have a real tendency to spend a great deal of time and energy identifying what’s wrong in this world. In fact, many who consider themselves to be spiritually astute have become masters at identifying what’s wrong with a TV show or movie, what’s wrong with a public personality, what’s wrong with a particular ministry or teaching series.
I must say that I think I’ve been as good of a wrong-discerner as anybody. In fact, I’ve made it a point to learn to read between the lines when others appear to be oblivious to the sinister efforts behind certain media themes.
This is why a passage from Philippians recently struck me so strongly:
“And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight [discernment] so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11 (NET)
Do you see Paul’s emphasis? He’s praying for his readers to have discernment so that they can decide for and approve what is best! It’s not so much about disproving the things that are wrong as much as identifying and focusing on that which is good.
While I don’t want to over-react to the point of becoming oblivious to the deep wrongs in our world, I might rightly say that it’s wrong to have such a wrong-focused understanding of discernment. (Chew on that one for a while! )
There is so much good in this world that is either not readily visible or easily over-looked. God is doing an awesome work in our day—if only we will be deliberate to see through the eye of faith.
If we focus on all that is wrong in our world, we will quickly become hardened and weighted down with discouragement. Truly Biblical discernment views life through a faith-colored lens. It peers through the haze of wrongdoing and negativity to highlight the good ways in which God is at work in and through His people. Let’s make it a point to look for the loving hand of God at work around us. He’s doing more than we often realize!