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Sway.


Then there is the aggravation of sway. The wordsmiths at Merriam-Webster define three levels of sway. One: the action or an instance of swaying or of being swayed: an oscillating, fluctuating, or sweeping motion. Two: an inclination or deflection caused by or as if by swaying. Three: a controlling influence, or sovereign power, or the ability to exercise influence or authority (click here for more). People in my generational cohort typically understand definition one. Sway might be an accurate description of certain physical movement in geezerhood. You know, like standing too quickly, or charging up or down stairs, maybe climbing or descending a ladder, perhaps shagging a little too vigorously. Yes, we boomers understand the reality of physical sway.

Most humans know the other definitions too, especially number 3. Even in childhood we know about controlling influence, how our opinions and ideals sway because of the action of others. It's another trouble spot in our decision-making responsibilities, the push and pull of the people around us. Being emotionally and spiritually secure is often challenged by that sway, the leanings of our opinions put in motion by the voices and actions of a world on the move. And, the expectations of the people in our circle of influence. It's another angle on limping between multiple opinions.

One day Jesus was confronted by disciples of the Pharisees. These Pharisees were the most elite of the Jewish authorities in the first century, the champions of legalism. What they said to Jesus intrigued me---

And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know

that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about

anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances."

Matthew 22: 16, ESV

At first glance their words seem rather complimentary. But earlier Matthew wrote that the Pharisees were plotting to entangle Jesus in his words (see Matthew 22: 15). They were setting a verbal trap for him, asking his views on paying taxes to Caesar. Even so, they did identify a quality about Jesus that serves as a decision making pointer for us all. Our opinions should not be formed by yielding to the opinions of the crowd or shaped by outer appearances. What others think and how things appear are usually the recipe for sway. This wavering back and forth usually hinders our decision making.

Not that wise counsel and factual data are insignificant when we make critical life choices. Numerous Scriptures emphasize the wisdom of advisors and counselors when decisions must be made. The distinction in what was said to Jesus is that his mission to finish the redemptive work of the Father was foremost in his earthly ministry. His opinion was guided by the Father and not the boisterous opposition. He was modeling what the Apostle Paul later wrote---

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that

by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and

perfect.

Romans 12:2, ESV

Scroll through Solomon's Proverbs for hundreds of references about receiving Godly counsel when making important decisions. His emphasis throughout, however, is that such counsel should be from people with similar values. Those values then become ground zero in decision making and not the popular opinions of a whimsical culture.

The beloved disciple John recorded another strong statement Jesus made about decision making and appearances. Jesus said, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement" (John 7: 24, ESV). Our decisions should not be the result of how things seem at first glance or what is obviously popular in the world around us. When we are weighing opinions and choosing courses of action we must also discern what is factual in a set of circumstances. How many times do we hear children say 'everybody else is doing it", an attempt to justify their actions by appearances. Underneath the outer look of things is truth that should be acknowledged first.

Influence is double-sided in opinion issues. Whose influence shapes mine is pivotal when I'm evaluating significant decisions. Far too often human ideals are the stuff of media influence, mainstream and social, or the trendy whims of an ever-changing culture. Thoughtful, wise decision making involves weighing opinions, balancing them with our values, study, the guidance of trusted friends, and sound reasoning. Those affirming a Christian worldview should include biblical truth in that process, and times of fervent prayer. Revering God and trusting his promises are sure sources of personal confidence as we limp and sway under the weight of opinions.

And, there is our influence on others. As mentioned on Monday, King Solomon concluded that some people care little about understanding but would rather express their opinions in harsh, loud, and threatening ways (see Proverbs 18:2). It saddens me to witness leaders squander their influence by over-powering others with their opinions instead of seeking understanding and truthful answers. Being a blowhard is simple foolishness. Solomon wrote about this strange phenomenon as well---"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:2, ESV). Yes, he did understand something about life in a real world.

So, there are opinions. We all have them. We must be wise in our stewardship of them. That wisdom involves resisting folly, alleviating limp, and avoiding sway when forming and expressing opinions. Pray that it will be so.

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