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Filters

Since our granddaughter moved away, we regularly video chat. It is lots of fun to watch her experience her new home and love her new sister. Her mother will just give her the phone from time to time, and she’ll run and hide to talk to Pawpaw (me). But she does little talking. Mostly she wants to play with the camera filters. It’s such a joy to hear her laugh when she sees herself.

Here is a picture of one such session:

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You can almost hear her squeals of laughter through the picture!

Today I was thinking about filters and how they impact our perception of the world around us. Gloria’s filter is meant to alter my perception of her, and the filters we apply to the world do the same. Of course, this has been common in the church from the beginning because it is ingrained into human nature. This is also something common for all people, not just people of faith. But you can learn a great deal about people from what they say and consider the filter they are using to look at the world they describe.

For example, a fearful person will tend to use a fear-inspired filter. They will see the news or read it and rework everything to align with their fear-centered understanding of the world. Another person, with a different filter, can look at the identical story and come to a very different conclusion. Ironically, each side assumes the other is blind, sticking their head in the sand, or refusing to look at the obvious. But the filter is the issue. Now, this happens on both sides: “liberal” and “conservative.”

Through what filter are you observing the world and current events? Are you looking through the filter of a disciple, confident that everything happens in line with God’s plan? Are you looking through a filter of faith or a filter of fear? Or could it be a filter of gullibility? The problem is that when we look through our chosen filter—especially over a lifetime—we confuse that view with reality.

As an example of this, consider the ancient allegory of Plato’s Cave. In this, Plato postulated a reality in which people are chained in a dark cave. The only light shines on a wall opposite, where they see shadow figures acting out complex lives. The people in the cave are so used to their place and view they come to believe the shadows are reality. They cannot comprehend the truth behind it. Now, Plato used this metaphor to argue that our senses ultimately cannot be trusted. As Christians, we believe God lovingly gave us accurate senses to experience the world he created, unlike Plato. We also believe this world was created good (Genesis 1:31) and will someday wholly be restored to goodness (Revelation 21:1). So, the problem is not our senses. The problem is the underlying philosophy or worldview (filter) through which we choose to interpret the experience of those senses.

Let’s use another famous story. Imagine a blindfolded person holding a rope. Now, the hand experiences the texture. But is it a rope or a snake? Or maybe it’s a vine. You see, for the one without the senses needed to discern the truth, it becomes a matter of interpretation. So many things happen in this world. The last two years have been transformative in many ways—and I doubt many would say these were for good. Anyone who thinks life in 2021 is identical to 2019 is fooling themselves. Either that or they have lived sequestered for all that time.

The problem is how we look at these changes and the surrounding world. We do not have the sensory ability to read the hearts of our leaders. We do not have the sensory capacity to look behind the curtain like Dorothy in Oz.

Our only option is to use our filters. So, what filters should we use? As Christians, this is already determined for us. We are to look through the filter of faith. Heb 11:1 (ESV) says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is the filter through which we experience our world and approach current events. We trust Christ to win. To be honest, I don’t really need to know the details behind the curtain because Scripture says I have an anchor behind the most important curtain (Heb 6:19). We are anchored safely behind the curtain in the heavenly Holy of Holies. We approach the throne of grace boldly because our Lord, Lord of Heaven and Earth, abides there.

Stop filtering the world through fear. Stop letting concerns overwhelm you. Yes, some will accuse me of encouraging people to stick their heads in the sand. Just remember, you choose your filter. Of course, I understand this is not as simple as deciding “I will just not be afraid any longer.” But there is help. The Holy Spirit can fill you and empower you. With his fullness, there is nothing to fear—not even “fear itself.”

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