Episode 1. Tasting and Seeing
We should eat more fruit. We know that…..but it’s not until we taste the banana and smell the mandarin – that we go – oh, that’s good. It’s the experience that seals the deal. But what about God – how do we know that He’s good? We’ve all heard that nutritionists say that we should […]
We should eat more fruit. We know that…..but it’s not until we taste the banana and smell the mandarin – that we go – oh, that’s good. It’s the experience that seals the deal. But what about God – how do we know that He’s good?
We’ve all heard that nutritionists say that we should eat more fruit. It’s good for us. There’s the fiber, the vitamins, the minerals and the colorful fruits have antioxidants in them that reduce the risk of cancer. The more fruit we eat, the lower the risk of heart disease and on it goes. We know all that stuff. But somehow it doesn’t sink in, we keep eating chocolate, biscuits, cakes.
It turns out that all the head knowledge under the sun won’t change our behavior, even if it’s a life or death issue. Staggering, isn’t it? Even though we could avoid diabetes or add even five or ten years to our lives by simply applying what we know, nothing much changes. So what will change our behavior? That’s a good question.
It turns out that there are kind of two ways of knowing something.
The first is head knowledge. We go back to the fruit – there are a whole bunch of nutritional and health facts that are very important, but they’re kind of uninspiring. On their own, facts are dry. And indeed, the facts can be a source of guilt and fear. I’m somebody whose father died of diabetes and so I’m prone to diabetes. I know that I should eat more fruit and more bran and all of those good things. And if I don’t, the facts become a source of fear and dread and lurking guilt knowing that I’m eating my way to death.
The other way of knowing something is through experience, experiencing something in real life. The way to experience the benefits of eating more fruit, well, is to eat more fruit. It’s something that I’ve had to do given the risk that I have of contracting diabetes as I become older. It has been a really important source of motivation for me.
But when you pick a banana up out of the fruit bowl – you know that beautiful, ripe and yellow. And it has that smell and you peel the back and you bite into that soft but firm texture of a banana – you can only get that taste, that sensation in a banana. Or mandarins – mandarins where I am are really good at the moment. You know, one of those mandarins that’s soft and the skin’s kind of bubbling away a little bit and you just put your finger nail in to break the skin and immediately this pungent odor fills your nostrils.
I love mandarins, or a crisp juicy apple, or plums, sweet grapes. I love the Isabella variety; they have muskiness to them. They’re made just to pop in your mouth. Is your mouth-watering yet? Do you feel like reaching for a piece of fruit from the fruit bowl?
Experience is a way of knowing.
So on the one hand, we have a pile of chips and chocolate and biscuits and cakes and junk food. And over here in the other pile (in the fruit bowl), we have all those beautiful fruits: mandarins, nectarines, apricots, bananas, apples and pineapples.
And the way we go from a habit of junk food to a habit of good food, there are two parts to that:
First is the important part – we kind of have to know that we need to do it. We need to know some of those basic nutritional facts to motivate us.
But the second part is experience. The second part is tasting and seeing that the fruit is good. It’s the good taste of the fruit. It’s the pleasure that we get out of the fruit – it makes it habit-forming.
I have to tell you, I’m going to have a mandarin when I go home today because I know there are a couple of really nice ones sitting in the fruit bowl at home and I know I’m going to enjoy them.
When you look at it historically, over the last, well, umpteen centuries, the pendulum has always swung in the way that we know something. Back in the 1940’s and 1950’s and in the early ‘60’s the emphasis was on head knowledge. It was on dot points. I remember at school we used to memorize things by lists of dot points.
These days, however, the pendulum has swung almost completely the other way and we’re not interested so much in the knowledge as the experience. We like to experience things, to taste life to its full.
And it turns out that knowledge on its own is dry. Experience on its own, well, it’s kind of vacuous, it’s kind of empty. It’s great for a while, but without the knowledge, there’s no anchor. There’s no foundation. People feel empty and skeptical.
Look at Christianity, look at how we believed in God. Back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, it was a series of creeds. It was knowing the facts, it was the head knowledge. It was knowing the information that we believed in. And don’t get me wrong, I think that’s actually very important particularly today. I think it’s important to know what it is that we believe.
But if it stops just there, if it’s just a series of dot points on a page or a series of chapters in a book, well, you can separate that right from life.
You can take the book and put it on a shelf. You can take the page and leave it on a desk. And in reaction of that dry way of knowing God and believing in Jesus, in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, there was quite a reaction in some denominations against that dryness and some became very experiential.
Now, I’m not criticizing experience. Experience is good particularly when we’re having a relationship with God. If God’s God, if God is as good as what they say He is, wow, wouldn’t it be great to have an experience of God, experience a relationship? But some denominations reacted so far; they kind of left the facts behind. And when you take experience to such an extreme and leave the facts out of it, well, it fizzles out because it becomes vacuous.
And to some extent, the public image of Christianity today is at those two extremes – those two poles. Either people see it as being a dry set of precepts and rules. Or they see it as being, “Well, you know, you see these Christians on television sometimes and they’re praising God and they’ve got their hands in the air. Well, that’s a bit wacky. That’s a bit ooh, that’s weird!”
And yet, just like fruit – just like knowledge and experience are what gets us into good habits. And remember like eating fruit, our lives depend on this stuff! Well, I think the same is true of believing in Jesus.
Now seventy percent of us believe in God. We may not all believe in Jesus, but seventy percent of us believe in God. And most of those people would say, “Well, yeah, I believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I believe He died on the cross and I believe He bought me eternal life.”
But so many people look at this Christianity gig and go, “Well, yeah. But maybe it’s dry, maybe it’s rules, I hunger for experience.” We live in a society and a psyche that hungers for experience – good coffee, good restaurants, good food, travel, five-star resorts, health resorts, feng-shui design for our houses – we want to experience our spirituality in real life. We hunger for some sort of authentic spiritual experience to know God and Jesus. Not just as a series of facts but in our experience.
Three thousand years ago, David, who was the greatest king Israel ever had, wrote this. He said:
Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)
Taste and see that the Lord is good. What if God is there to be experienced? What if there is an intimate, authentic spiritual reality and experience that we can have here and now?
I’m not talking about ditching the knowledge. I believe that the facts about faith are important for us to have in our heads. But I also believe that if God is good, shouldn’t we taste and see for ourselves that the Lord is good?
The world is full of people who want to believe in Jesus but think that Jesus is a dry bunch of rules. And sadly, churches are full of people who have never really experienced the joy and the wonder and the awe of a relationship with God.
I believe that we need to taste and see that the Lord is good.