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What Exactly is Common Sense?
June 16, 2020, 6:00 PM

Thankyou for letting me take a break for a week and a half. I was finishing up some upgrades to our free clinic and it was easier to just wait.

“That person is lacking common sense,” is a phrase most of us have heard during our lifetime. Mostly it used to describe someone who fails to understand even the most basic human concepts, usually resulting in harm to themselves or others in some fashion.

But an interesting thing happened at Church recently that has caused me to think about that phrase. Speaking with another deacon before church I listened as they shared a personal story of dropping a phone in the lake because of a possible lack of common sense. I, of course, responded with something to the effect that we all have those moments. The conversation about said common sense continued for a minute.

But then, the conversation took an unexpected turn when they said, “What if common sense is relative…I mean if you are never taught something in the first place, how can it be common sense, until you learn?”

I thought about that. I mean, there are people who just can’t think in terms of simple living skills. There are also those who, because of one reason or another, are never taught even the most basic of things. I also thought about how much common sense is relative to your background. I think it applies in a variety of ways. I could probably go on forever about how it applies to current issues. I will keep It general and brief.

We think many things should be common sense because it is how we are raised in our own culture, or country or racial group…there are many ways to split it up.

And I think we can all agree there is an overall lack of common sense in the world as of June 2020. Where the disagreement comes in is what exactly it is. We don’t understand what common sense should be (from another perspective) when it comes to dealing with other races, political parties, etc. We just don’t take the time. They also don’t bother. So, we have conflict.

When my adopted daughter was 10, I asked her to get a pan out of the oven. Too my horror, she just grabbed it, with her bare hands. Afterward, I thought to myself, “That girl has no common sense.” But as I thought about it, I mistakenly assumed a 10-year-old would know. She does now.

I think many make similar assumptions about religion, politics, race and other issues. We just assume others should want a prosperous country, want to take care of their weak, law and order, etc. Why wouldn’t everyone? I would contend the majority do. Why then, as of June of 2020 does there seem to be such a disconnect?

I want to begin to by asking a question…do you know why throughout the history of the United States that the black church and white church has been largely separate, even after segregation ended?

We can assume many things; people being comfortable, logistics, trust issues. While I’m sure that does happen, it’s not the primary reason. The primary reason was how each group viewed Jesus. Whites primarily saw Jesus as a provider and sustainer and worship was structured from that viewpoint. Black churches on the other hand, formed during and after slavery viewed Jesus as a rescuer and a deliverer and structured their worship from that perspective. Two quite different but legitimate perspectives.

So, it stands to figure that many differences in the churches role in society comes from those perspectives. But many come to their own assumptions and those false assumptions turn into issues. The truth is, we just don’t really know each other. You think it would be common sense to listen and understand each other.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, good people who are minorities are still routinely treated different because of their skin color. We should want to know where, why and how much. But from a white perspective, there are laws for that, so move on.

We then find the criminals and hold them up as the example and say things like, “If they weren’t breaking the law they would have nothing to worry about.” Yes, well turns out some law abiding Americans do.  We point out the radicals in their midst and hold them up as the standard and then just shake our head. We don’t listen.

So, they protest peacefully by taking a knee during the pledge. People explode. They protest as players and actors during games with t shirts and speeches and we tell them to shut up and do what they’re paid for. So then there’s a riot. Common sense would tell you it was coming. Common sense would also tell you that it’s not just about the incident that started it. It’s about all of the good people who were systematically treated different. I have to tell you if I’m a minority and I work hard, follow Jesus and am still discriminated against and my white brothers and sisters just rolled out political memes saying things like, “If you weren’t doing anything wrong then you wouldn’t have anything to worry about,” I’d be devastated. Those hurting are among us.

It happens other places. Politics follow the same pattern. Different groups are focused on different aspects, but they are both needed. But instead of taking the best of both sides and solving problems we spend all of our time denigrating people and not much time solving problems. Common sense should tell us that we’re wasting time on those lies on both sides.

Religion follows the same pattern. As a southern protestant, I always heard Catholics were next to satanic because they worshipped Jesus’ mom Mary and believed you can work your way into heaven. They, in turn assumed protestants believed if you just professed to have an encounter with Jesus and got baptized, you could sin all you want and still go to heaven.

None of those things are true. With all of the history of learned people earnestly pursuing God on both sides, common sense should tell you that they are not that stupid.

But that’s not how it is. The lack of common sense that we readily label others with turns out to fit well on us too. I could keep going but if you’re going to understand, you already do. If you don’t well…..

So what can we do? How do we take steps to get on the right path?

The Takeaway

1) Our perspective is not everyone’s – Don’t assume people should just get it because you do. People come from many cultures and situations. Reach out and understand about their life. You may be the person to smile on them and bring them along. You also might be shown a better way to look at things.

2) What’s important to us is not as important to everyone else, by design – God designed us all with a purpose. If someone is an engager but doesn’t seem to feel the way you do about an issue, it may be because they are devoting themselves to another critical issue. That’s okay. Give them the summary version to make them aware and move on to someone who is.

3) Every situation is not a strictly good versus evil scenario – We are so guilty nowadays of trying to picture everything in terms of good and evil when it comes to people and issues. It makes us feel like a good person fighting for right. It also makes for a convenient soundbite or meme but it is so much more complicated than that. For example, going back to our first example, there is a growing group of white people who really want to get involved and help (I hear them), but they are scared of accidentally saying one wrong word or phrase and being crucified publicly for it. So, they just nod and keep to themselves.

That lacks common sense. You want those people. If they are sincere and they make a mistake, you want to encourage them to grow and fix the problem. For example, I’m pro-life. But I don’t plaster social media with outrage and shame, because it’s unproductive. All it really does is make me look like I care. But if people are engaged on that issue, they already have a strong position and I’m not arrogant enough to think I can shout them or shame them into compliance. Instead, I work on converting people to Jesus. (something we’re commanded to do anyways) I draft more players on my team. Do that and God works on those issues and I don’t have to be hateful to people.

We don’t like to admit it, but most of us lack common sense to a degree. If we don’t it is strictly dependent on God providing it. We should be thankful for that and pray and engage others so we can do the same.

You can support the police, take a break from the political attacks AND listen to everyday minorities for a while and understand their struggles unique to their American experience. Those things are not mutually exclusive. That’s common sense.


Romans 1:20-22 (NASB)
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.

  August 2020  
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