“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20 (NKJV)
Have you ever found yourself looking at one of those optical illusion images and been totally bumfuzzled by how your brain can be tricked into seeing things that are not there, or maybe failing to see things that are clearly there? It can leave you with a momentary distrust of anything your eyes are telling you. The truth is that our eyes do not ‘see’ at all. They merely expose our brain to images. It is the brain that must determine what the images mean, and define what we are seeing, or not seeing. When our normal perspective is affected by things that interfere with that process, all kinds of interesting, and sometimes troubling, things can happen. Check out the window to your right, for instance. Are you looking up at it from beneath and toward your right? Or maybe you’re looking down from above and toward your left? Our eyes can fool us, can’t they—or more accurately, our brains are vulnerable to perceptive manipulation, so that we aren’t sure what we’re seeing, or where we are standing.
The fascinating reality is that the picture doesn’t change at all. It remains exactly the same as it was when you first looked at it, and the truth is that you are neither above it nor below it. Our perception doesn’t change what reality is, but it can alter the effect that reality has on us. It can influence us toward conclusions that are at odds with truth, toward choices that lead to outcomes we regret, and down pathways from which there is no return.
The people in Samuel’s day faced such a perceptual dilemma, and some judges in our state will face another on Tuesday morning. For the Children of Israel under Samuel’s leadership, their problem had to do with their picture of a king. They approached the aging prophet and said that they weren’t pleased with how his kids were acting, and demanded that he appoint a king over them, “like all the nations.” Their perception of a king that was at odds with reality. For the people of our day, the struggle is over our perception of marriage.
The issue confronting the leaders in Samuel’s Israel was more than just an academic debate about what it means to have a king. They were faced with decisions regarding what to do in regard to that perception. Virginia today faces a similar situation. This isn’t just a debate about one’s perception of marriage. Decisions must be made, and ramifications will follow. Just as with the ancient Jews, we stand at the door of a pathway and we may find our course to be irreversible. It would be easier if there was only one perception available, unfortunately, that is not the case. There are divergent and conflicting perceptions facing us, just as there were divergent and conflicting perceptions before Samuel and the Jewish leadership. The implications of our choices are sometimes profound in their ultimate impact on our lives. That was certainly true for Samuel and his beloved nation, and it is just as true for the judges who will decide the fate of the appeal regarding Virginia’s Marriage Amendment.
We are prone to think that because there are divergent perceptions, there are also divergent realities. That is not the case. As we demonstrated in our little picture above, there’s only one picture, and neither misleading perception accurately defined the one relationship that actually exists between the observer and the drawing. Similarly, whatever perceptive ‘evidence’ we might like to throw out as validation to support a claim that our particular view is the ‘right’ one, is not sufficient in itself to establish, and may not necessarily affect, the unchangeable reality at all. What was needed in Samuel’s day was not a more passionate exposition of biased perceptions, but an unobstructed exposure to the truth, and a willingness to subjugate all those perceptions to the disaffected reality that truth always reveals and supports.
The choices facing the Jews in Samuel’s day were national in scope, but they were personal in their implications. National policies had individual impact then, too. In supporting a collective decision to demand a king, for instance, an individual Jewish farmer was not necessarily demanding a personal relationship, or even an audience with the appointed sovereign. Perhaps the farmer’s intent was to simply support the popular view—even if it wasn’t necessarily reflective of his personal opinion. The impact on his life, however, would be very personal, and that impact would not be constrained by the boundaries of the farmer’s perception of what the role of a king should be.
It would be directly related to the realities associated with what the king actually did. Hard realities do not yield to generalized, idealistic perceptions. Perceptions that run counter to truth, regardless of how popular those perceptions might be, will offer no protection from the realities that truth brings with it. If the farmer in our little story happened to think that kings should be peaceful, and always protective of farmers, would that protect him and his property from the ravages of battle if the king decided to incite war instead? Of course not. Perceptions are powerful in their impact on our choices, but dissipate like a hologram before the unyielding force of reality and the truth that always undergirds it.
Some will claim on Tuesday that their divergent perception of marriage is sufficient to declare that a divergent reality exists, that two men, or two women can constitute a marriage, and that it is their ‘right’ to do. Others, of course, will extol the established, ‘traditional’ view, that marriage can only be defined as the union of one man and one woman. Volumes will be uttered between now and Tuesday offering declarations and defenses of diverse perceptions, but the consequences that will attend the final decision will be very real, very personal, and will not be constrained within the confines of popular perceptions. Families will be affected, and children will be damaged. Flowery speeches and impassioned oratory won’t stop that.
God’s definition of marriage is not right because we perceive it to be so, or because we voted to affirm it, or even because it works better than any alternative ever conceived. It is right because God Himself established it. He declared it, defined it, and has consistently demonstrated its power, its value, and its validity since the beginning. If we choose to sit silently by (again) and allow the systematic destruction of the most valuable and protective social institution ever devised, then we should prepare for the hard realities that will follow. They will not be avoided or softened by the sugary ‘love speeches’ that adorn the optical illusion that has been thrust upon us as a nation.
The Jewish leaders confronting Samuel didn’t make a wrong choice because they didn’t hear the truth about kings and what having one would mean for them. God’s spokesman provided that for them in graphic and accurate detail. Their failure was a result of their unwillingness to stand against a popular perception that was a total distortion of reality. We have that same choice here and now—popular perception vs. truth and reality. God’s protection and blessing will only attend the latter.
If you are here in Richmond, or can get here on Tuesday morning, please consider standing with us, and praying with us. If you can possibly do it, please consider taking up the challenge to come downtown and join with us at 8:30 on Tuesday morning. You can find more details about the day through the The Family Foundation at www.familyfoundation.org/may13/
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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