Squinting in the bright sun, I turned to see Marc Sternberg in conversation with a middle-aged man. It was easy to spot Marc, who stood out from the crowd in his Jews for Jesus T-shirt. Marc and I were handing out literature and engaging people in conversations in Menlo Park, California, where thousands were gathered for the Connoisseur’s Marketplace, an annual festival with food, live music and stalls full of fine art and artisanal crafts.
I joined Marc and Stan.* Stan told us that he could tell when something “rings true” when it “resonates” with him. Stan said he believes that every person is born seeking and by their feelings they can figure out what’s true without being influenced by “some sort of scholar or dogma.”
I asked Stan how he could tell when something “resonates.” Stan said that when truth enters a human soul, the soul resonates, like a musical note entering an empty vessel.
“It makes me feel good,” said Stan, “It makes me feel alive, it makes me question, it makes me wonder. It makes me do all the things that I’m supposed to be doing on my journey.”
When Marc mentioned Jesus, Stan agreed, “God resonated through him, totally.” Marc told Stan that we don’t just believe that God resonated through Jesus, but that Jesus, in fact, was God—that Jesus was not just the echo of a perfect note, but the note itself.
Stan frowned. “Yeah. That doesn’t resonate with me.”
I was afraid it didn’t. People often mistake Jesus to be some sort of well-meaning (but eccentric) prophet, or a “good guy” who said nice things a couple thousand years ago.
If only Stan were better acquainted with the Scriptures, or with the writings of C.S. Lewis. In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes:
I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Clearly, a decision must be made.
We are similarly mistaken when we think that we can judge the truth or value of all things by our feelings.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, King Solomon writes,
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
It’s no secret that our hearts can lead us astray. We all have made mistakes whose consequences we should have seen coming—be it a small white lie or an adulterous relationship. The prophet Jeremiah said,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
The good news? God freely offers forgiveness and mercy to us all. Not only that, but He is willing to share His wisdom with us:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
*not his real name