A New Paradigm

17424267_ParadigmShift

“. . . the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16 NIV

There is a culture of indigenous people who make their home in a vast region called the Taiga in Siberia who have lived off the land for a hundred years with little change. The government allots each hunter/trapper an area of around 1500 square miles in a remote section of the Taiga where they can set their traps and live during the winter months when that season is the best. If you want to get a glimpse of the outer limits of human endurance, “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” is an excellent documentary to watch. The only modern resources I saw were their antiquated snowmobiles and motorized boats. They spend the spring and summer months from May through August in the village with their families raising gardens for part of their food source. With 22 hours of sunlight each day, the gardens don’t need such a long growing season. They cut wood, hunt and fish, preparing their families for the long winter ahead. In August the men load up the boats with supplies, snowmobiles and dogs to make the long trek to their hunting grounds preparing for the coming winter. They set their trap lines and push off the 4-6 ft of last year’s snow on their cabin roofs so they don’t cave in. The new snow arrives and the thermometer dips on average to -30 to -55 degrees. The dog is an important companion and helper. He sleeps outside in his own shelter and is not brought into the cabin. He is also expected to help keep them both alive. The endurance of the trappers and their dogs are something beyond our comprehension.   They are a loving and happy people content in the strenuous cadence of their lives. They push the boundaries of survival regularly and do it without cell phones. I see the physical endurance capacity of which the human body is capable and I wonder about our spiritual capacities. Are we pushing the comfortable spiritual limits we have carved out for ourselves? With Christ as our model for what we can become, then we must imagine that our spiritual capacities are vast.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry He taught His disciples new perspectives with the endgame in mind that they would see with new eyes and gradually become a new creation. Jesus Christ brought the new covenant, “the light has dawned”. He taught in parables to engage and challenge their understanding in the daily scenarios that paralleled their lives. He addressed the human issues of prejudice, hate, bigotry and selfishness present in every culture in every age and the ways they adversely impacted and victimized others. He challenged their comfort level wanting them to open their eyes and see and experience the “great light” or insight He was bringing. This reference in Matthew 13 is a perfect example of this:

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Jesus’ disciples followed Him everywhere and sat under His tutelage day after day because they were hungry to learn all that the new Rabbi could teach them. They were gradually becoming the new creation that Christ was teaching them about.

We are capable of recreating who we are and how we see the world and others. Our very complex brain has motivation centers that when they are engaged we get excited about learning and seek it hungrily. In the documentary “The Brain Fitness Program” there is a case study presented about an older man who had a stroke and became unable to walk. His son told him that he should do what he did the first time when he learned to walk and that is to crawl on all fours. The father was a very independent person who didn’t want to be helped so he was determined to do whatever it took. After a period of time, of crawling everywhere in his house, he regained his independence and was able to walk and return to his profession as a college professor. After he passed away, they discovered through an autopsy that his brain had suffered a great loss of cells in the normal mobility centers due to the stroke but that other parts of the brain had taken over restoring his mobility again. The brain has plasticity for adapting to continual change. We can recreate ourselves even in advanced years when we are normally in decline. We can seek learning new information and new skills and be an interesting, positive person – one with whom people look forward to spending time.

In Isaiah’s prophecy though, we can see that the brain-heart-spirit connection to God can become calloused:

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;

When this happens we are unable to transform as God had intended leaving us a “people living in darkness in the land of the shadow of death”.

Jesus was action-oriented. He challenged the calloused hearts with regularity. One experience revealed the paradigm of that day. A paradigm is a “set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them”. (Taken from Free Dictionary Online)

It concerned healing a man who had been born blind.

 “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:1-5

The paradigm that existed in the Jewish community addressed this situation far differently than Christ did. They assumed that the blindness was a punitive action from God upon this family because of sin.   After the miracle, much pressure was put on the young man by the Pharisees for an answer that fit their paradigm – one that they wanted to hear. Even though he was forthcoming in how Christ healed him they still couldn’t believe it.   Then they sent for the parents. Everyone told the same story, that the man had been born blind which was considered to be a more difficult healing. The Pharisees could only answer with accusations that Jesus was a sinner because by healing this man’s blindness, He had not kept the Sabbath.

PART TWO

Taken from Part One: Jesus was action-oriented. He challenged the calloused hearts with regularity. One experience revealed the paradigm of that day. A paradigm is a “set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them”.

In Matthew 16 there is another good example of the paradigm the disciples had about the coming Messiah. They only saw Him as their rescuer from the immediate captivity the Jews had under Rome. Peter even took Christ aside and rebuked Him for talking about His pending death.   Here is that experience:

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Denoting here that Peter’s concept was being influenced by Satan.)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Like us, Peter had a long way to go to see with new spiritual eyes what Christ was trying to teach him.

In Acts 9, there is a story about the destructive actions of one powerful Pharisee. Saul sought out Christians to have them stoned as he saw them as enemies of the state. He was blind in a spiritual sense and was devout in his mission until one day he had an encounter with this risen Christ for whom the believers died. Saul was struck down and blinded. After three days of being nursed back to help by Ananias, a believer, the scales fell from his eyes. He could not only see but he saw with new eyes. He changed his name to Paul and became one of the greatest apostles that ever lived. His paradigm had totally changed. He was baptized and became a new creation. Even though there was much blood on his hands for past mistakes, he was liberated from hate, prejudice and spiritual blindness to become a disciple of Christ. Later, Apostle Paul wrote these words to the believers at Ephesus:

Ephesians 4:17-32

 “ So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

      Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

When Christ was weeping over Jerusalem during His last week on earth His words present even further evidence of spiritual blindness: “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41

In our opening account of the hunter and his dog in the Taiga, there is a part in the documentary that shows the hunter traveling home for a short visit to celebrate Christmas with his family. He is traveling on the frozen river in his snowmobile with his faithful dog running behind. The dog is spotlighted through the day and at night still running behind his master for the entire 100 mile trip home pressing on to the joyous welcome waiting at home with family and friends. I think of the scripture in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

“Go ye therefore into all the world. . .” but go as a new creation with eyes wide open, with a new maturity and a renewed sensibility to others; be teachable and willing to learn what it takes to live the Kingdom life laid out in the Scriptures, taking sweet water wherever you go.

One thought on “A New Paradigm

  1. Rita I wanted to thank you for sharing your time, wisdom and unconditional love with me at this crucial time in our lives. I’ve not been so respected, loved or warmly received in as long as I can remember. Thank you for being the tool that God is using to realign my life…We have only shared but a short time together as of yet but you have inspired a new awakening that only the hand of God would reveal…So Very Looking Foward To This New Journey….ReBecca Bryson Fountain

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