When information doesn’t make sense, when both sides of a story are compelling or when there are too many options to make an easy choice possible, I’m confused. It takes me a while to sort through complexity, get the whole story, and/or process the options to arrive at a conclusion.
Confusion has never bothered me, other than frustration, but the Bible has caused me to think about confusion differently and to remind myself of the One who is never confused. He doesn’t want us to be either.
Recently, I was searching the Bible for a concept – don’t remember what – but I did a search on the word “confusion,” and the passages that came back in my Bible search got my attention. All 19 occurrences of the word “confusion” (in the NIV translation) were negative and many of them described God throwing an enemy into confusion.
Similar words, like perplexed and bewildered, seem to be used for individual confusion. Daniel was perplexed, even appalled, at the dream Nebuchadnezzar asked him to interpret, (Daniel 4:19), believers in Jerusalem at Pentecost were amazed and perplexed (Acts 2:12) at the tongues that were understood, Paul was perplexed – didn’t understand – the thinking of the Galatians (Gal. 4:20), and the women who first noticed that Jesus’s body wasn’t in the tomb were bewildered (Mark 16:8).
These perplexities and bewilderments indicate that individuals were puzzled by events that didn’t make sense or seemed to defy reality.
The Bible handles the word confusion differently. God routinely threw enemies into confusion to defeat them in battle.
“But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed.” Deuteronomy 7:23
He also promised to do the same to Israel if they ignored or rejected him.
The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. Deuteronomy 28:20
King David prayed that those who were plotting evil against him would be put to “shame and confusion.” This and similar prayers are recorded four times in the Psalms.
May those who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. Psalm 70:2
English translations of the Bible often translate words differently, so I looked at a few translations along with the Hebrew or Greek words that are used to make sure that my search gave reasonable results. It did.
Confusion was often perceived as a weapon.
When an army, organization or a society is confused its members don’t know who is on their side. They can’t tell what’s right and what’s wrong. Eventually, frustration and anger is turned inward against those who disagree making it far easier for an enemy from the outside to take over.
Which brings me to the point: the United States is confused.
Republicans and Democrats are staking out extreme positions and the media seems to enjoy the jeering and manipulative moves between the two parties. Never mind what the real issues are; who said what is all that’s important. The issues of today are complex and nuanced and will never be fully understood from sound bites or memes.
While politicians duke it out and journalists report the fights of the day, most Americans are doing their best to overcome their bewilderment. Those who are working, raising a family and serving in volunteer organizations or churches don’t have time to thoroughly investigate every political issue that comes up. Daily. It would be nice if network news programs would present more informative reporting of relevant issues instead of weather disasters and violent crimes. (I digress.)
It’s helpful to remind ourselves that we are not ultimately fighting human enemies; we are fighting spiritual battles.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Of course there is a place for vigorous disagreement around public policy and please don’t hear me suggesting that God has thrown us into confusion like an enemy army as in the Old Testament. What I am saying is that believers have the ability to look above the confusion, name calling and insult throwing. We understand the purpose of confusion and can pray, speak and act accordingly.
We should pray for our leaders to do the right – not necessarily the most politically expedient – thing for the people, learn to listen and have conversations instead of shouting matches. When we form an opinion, we should not be afraid to speak it gently and winsomely. And Christians have the best chance of real unity in Christ, for we know that we are following Jesus and not a political party. America needs unity, and if Christians show the country what that looks like across economic, racial, gender and ethnic divides, our confusion would defuse.
I admit, it sounds like a long shot, but nothing is too hard for the Lord.
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace… I Corinthians 14:33
Lord, please raise up some peacemakers.
What do you think? I would love to hear examples of Christians agreeing to disagree after honestly hearing each other’s perspectives.