Leadership and Assumptions
Your assumptions make a difference. They affect how you relate to people, make your decisions, and how you understand God and God’s love for you and the people entrusted to your care. Your assumptions shape your political viewpoints, your view of social issues, and your relationships with people. Your assumptions shape your leadership. Your assumptions make all the difference.
Over the years, I have learned that most of us do not take the work of assumption building seriously enough to understand why we think what we think or say what we say. We tend to accept what we think and do as being the right way. How do you go about forming the realities that influence your decision-making and your leadership?
It is important that you understand how your assumptions are formed. Let us look at a scripture that can assist us in our assumption building.
Read Genesis 3:1-7
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ”But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took off its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. – Genesis 3:1-7
When I was in the ninth grade my English teacher and her doctor husband moved to our small town in West Virginia. We all attended the same church. They sat across the sanctuary from where I usually sat. The doctor had long hair, a beard, was a VietNam veteran, and drove a little red sports car. All topics of conversation at one place or another in the community.
I remember the headlines of the local newspaper when they reported that the doctor had been arrested for the illegal use of drugs. The next Sunday in worship, I sat with my grandmother and a couple of her friends. Although the doctor and my teacher were not present, there were two different reactions to the doctor’s arrest.
One reaction was, “I’m surprised. I simply don’t believe it. I’ve known his family for over 40 years. They are good people and I know he is too. He is so caring and attentive to the needs of others.”
The other reaction was, “It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve never trusted him. Look at that long hair, the beard, and the car he drives. I have always been suspicious of him and his family.”
I remember how confused I was. Two different views of the same event. It was not until years later that I began to understand the complexity of our human decision-making processes. Too often our decisions involve more than an objective response to facts.
Over the years, I have learned our assumptions are important in how we deal with facts. We are rational and objective creatures. We end up with a conclusion that is shaped by our assumptions. Your assumptions make a difference.
Where you start affects where you end. Whether it be in politics regarding reactions to vaccines, how we view our rights, health care, guns, etc. or it is in the church regarding reactions to decisions, who makes those decisions, and how people follow policies and guidelines, each of us responds or react based upon our assumptions.
Our assumptions also affect how we view and live out our faith. It matters where you start with God. Do you start with trust or mistrust of God? Your assumptions make all the difference.
A single event with two different reactions. Because the assumptions of each woman were different, each conclusion was different. Assumptions are critical in your decision-making. The question is, how do you go about forming these powerful realities that influence what you think and do? It is my assumption that we don’t take the work of assumption building seriously. We tend to be sloppy, irrational, and arbitrary which throws our decision-making processes out of alignment.
So, how do you go about forming your assumptions? Do you base them on solid evidence or arbitrary hearsay? Are you seeking truth through searching the scripture, praying, developing relationships, and testing what you are learning through conversation and interaction with others? Or are you reacting based upon something you learned as a child or taking the word of someone who might have ulterior motives?
This scripture from Genesis describes how the first assumption of mistrust of God came into existence. It is an example of irrational assumption building. It was out of joy that God created the world. There were no ulterior motives. God wanted to share the joy, so God widened the circle by creating human beings.
Having set the experiment of joy into action, God showed the man and woman how things were meant to be in the garden. God said they were free to eat the fruit from all the trees of the garden except one tree. It was the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God said the fruit of that tree was poisonous to their systems. It was placed there to serve a religious purpose rather than a nutritional purpose.
God was pleased and saw that it was good. It was at that point the snake entered the picture. The snake addressing the woman asked, “Did God put you in the beautiful place and then prohibit you from eating all this fruit?” Notice the overstatement and false characterization.
The woman replied, “Oh no. We can eat everything in the garden except this one true. God said it is poisonous to us.”
The snake shook his head and said, “That old scoundrel. God is threatened by you. God knows that if you eat that fruit, you will be like God. You know God cannot stand that. You were created to feed God’s ego. Holding you down builds God up. If you know what is good for you, you will call God’s bluff. You will eat the fruit and take over this place.”
Checking Your Assumptions
That one conversation put creation into a whole different light. There was no indication that such suspicion had ever entered their minds. There was no evidence for such an attitude of mistrust. Nothing up to that point had God done to give the humans reason to believe the snake’s accusations. So, without checking things out or going to the source trying to get the truth of the situation, the first humans bought into that unfounded suspicion. For no good reason, they embraced rumor and began to act as if it contained the truth about God. Such carelessness brought about devastating results.
That is the point of this story. Our forebears took the word of a snake over the word of God the creator when it came to interpreting life. Because of their carelessness, the world became a conspiracy rather than a creation of joy. God became a foe rather than a caring parent of love. This is the story that explains why we humans continue to take life apart and try to put it back together in ways that do not work.
The first humans drank the poison and got sick. That is how God got a bad reputation. It is based upon a flimsy accusation along with some sloppy careless assumption work. We, humans, even to this day, continue to build our assumptions in the same way.
I confess that my earliest impressions of God were negative. I thought if I became a Christian, I would be giving up all the fun things in life. Somehow I was convinced that if I did not live a certain way, God would send me to hell. The result was that I attempted to change my behavior, but my heart remained unchanged. Deep within, God suffered from bad press.
So, how has God responded to our careless attitudes and assumptions? Did God blow up in rage? Did God become defensive or strike back? Was God revengeful? No. The single most creative thing God could have done is heard in the words of Paul to the Romans, “God did not spare his own son but gave him us for us all,” It is while we are yet sinners, missing the point of God’s love and joy for us, that Christ died for us.
My assumptions were reshaped, and my attitudes changed when I encountered God in and through Jesus. John Killinger said that “Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation.” In Jesus, I began to see and understand God’s love for us and God’s joy in sharing creation with us. It was over and against this confusion and suspicion, that God sent Jesus so could see what God looked like in history and understand what God looks like every day.
Can you trust a God like you see in Jesus? If so, will you let Jesus reshape your assumptions about God and your assumptions about the people you encounter each day? To put it another way, are you willing to take the action of God, in Jesus, seriously enough to let it do its work in you? Will you allow the image of Jesus to penetrate your assumptions so your attitudes will change?
When you are shaping your assumptions about God, politics, race, gender, health care, etc., will you do it carefully and realistically?
Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation. Will you let God do his redemptive work in you?
O God, I am grateful for your grace when it comes to my carelessness in forming my assumptions and my attitudes toward you and toward the people you send into my life. In Jesus, I have experienced your extravagant love. Again, by your grace, help me let Jesus do his work in me so that I take more seriously the work of building and shaping my assumptions. By your grace, help me become more the person you have created me to be and become a conduit of your love and joy to be people entrusted to my care. I offer myself to you in Jesus. Amen
In whom did you encounter God today? What were your assumptions of those persons? How were your assumptions formed and shaped? With whom do you need to confess your careless assumption building? With whom do you need to celebrate God’s presence and love? Give God thanks for the people you experienced today.
It is my prayer that you will take your assumption building seriously. Your assumptions shape your leadership. Who you are is how you lead.
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