preconception (noun) - an idea or opinion formed before enough information is available to form it correctly
Preconceptions can get us into trouble. Jumping to conclusions based on what we think we know about other people, their beliefs, and their intentions is never a good idea and can lead to all sorts of unintended and harmful consequences...for ourselves and for others.
I see a lot of this behavior in the world today. We are quick to assign labels and then cast judgment on persons who we assume fit those labels. The willingness to listen and get to know people who have different life experiences, perspectives, and convictions seems to be a rare commodity. When it comes to people we don't understand or with whom we disagree, the air we breathe far too often is mistrust and suspicion.
About a year ago, Catherine and I participated in an event called "Fearless Dialogues." It is one man's way of seeking to address these dangerous tendencies. Gregory Ellison, professor at Emory's Candler School of Theology, created this forum for nurturing better listening skills and deeper empathy. The very beginning of the two-hour experience caught my attention. As I was walking into the building where the event was held, hosts greeted me by saying, "It's so nice to finally see you." The next two hours was all about enabling each of us, perhaps for the first time, to truly "see" others who were in the room with us.
Remember how Jesus so often saw past preconceptions and judgments into the wounded hearts of people with whom he was called to share God's love? What if, as an act of faithfully following him, we were deeply committed to truly seeing people, not based on any preconceived ideas but as a result of being in relationship with them?
Don't miss the last episode of Once Upon a Time in Israel in worship this weekend. It's a tale that includes two powerful men, a king and a general, whose preconceptions could have led to disaster. Thank goodness for a couple of slaves and a prophet who enter the story with eyes to see what is possible when we put our trust in God.