Uncommon Sense


Acts 15:28  For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision — and ours — to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things

How often does our common sense lead us to Jesus’ uncommon actions?


After leaving the Navy as a computer analyst, Grace Hopper developed Flow-Matic that would later evolve into COBAL, the first well-known computer programming language. Born in 1906, she was a peculiar child dismantling several alarm clocks at age seven to understand their inner-workings. When her mother discovered what she was doing, she restricted Grace to one only for experimentation. She was an unconventional innovator and leader who would later keep a wall clock in her office that ran counter-clockwise. No wonder she’s the one to whom this encouragement is attributed: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Wonder if that ever got her in trouble?

It’s gotten me in trouble. I remember completing our women’s shelter addition at the mission with an open-date right around the corner. Problem was I had been practicing Grace’s recommendation. We had plans drawn up by an architect, stamped by an engineer, approved by the City but because of cost and what I thought to be common sense, I deviated a bit from the plans. The fire marshal didn’t like the deviation. On inspection, I was told that extra sprinklers would have to be placed above every ceiling tile in the women’s dorm unit before we could open. Sometimes it might be easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. Sometimes it isn’t.

It’s the reason most of us don’t like consulting authority. There’s a chance the authority will disagree. It’s why we like to lean on our own understanding. To us, it’s what makes the most sense. Unfortunately, I think what’s common sense to us is too commonly wrong. In a world too complex to figure out, why would we lean on our own understanding? Because consulting with authority always comes with the risk of disagreement.

A new and powerful faith, Christianity, was gripping eastern Europe, its rapid advancement amazing everyone, the apostles included.  They knew the new movement was completely dependent on God and they wanted to be in agreement with Him. Always. With no precedent to follow, no rule book to guide them, they consulted the Holy Spirit in every strategic decision. I’m sure what they thought to be common sense was often corrected after consulting God. Apparently, this instance was remarkable and they noted it, “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision – and ours -”

Wow! They consulted God with what they thought was the right thing to do and discovered He was in agreement with their thought. Worth noting, obviously.

What would life be like for us if we consulted God rather than just using our common sense? How much common sense did Jesus use? He touched lepers, sent His friends into storms, drew crowds far away with no food to feed them, enjoyed dinner with thieves, loved prostitutes and didn’t seem to care that Lazarus was about to die. How often does our common sense lead us to Jesus’ uncommon actions?

Most of the time, we operate under Grace Hopper’s rule, asking for forgiveness after we’ve messed something up rather than asking permission before we do it.  Wouldn’t we be better off if we checked our common sense at the door, consulted with the Authority, and then operated by His uncommon sense instead?




Acts 14:21 After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”

The greatest commitment is not in the most sincere pledge to do something, but in the acknowledgement that there is absolutely no other way to do something that absolutely must be done.

Just before 8 am on Sunday morning December 7, 1941, a fleet of Japanase war planes descended on Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack on the United States Navy. Japan had declared war on America. Italy and Germany immediately followed. Every American realized that a stateside invasion was imminent and that there was only one route to preserve our freedom. Fight.

The war effort that ensued would create one of the strongest fighting forces in history. Why? Because we were committed.

Sometimes, we commit ourselves. Other times, we’re committed.

I was committed once. To solitary confinement as a juvenile. No way out. No escape. No other choice.

In the second world war, Japan committed us to the fight like the law committed me to jail. No way out. No escape. No other choice. We had to fight.

What’s the difference between making a commitment and being committed? None really. If your commitment is real, it doesn’t matter whether you made it or if someone else made it for you. No way out. No escape. No other choice. You’re committed.

The residents of Lystra had pummeled Paul with rocks, dragged him out of the city and left him for dead. The next day, he went back into the same city. What commitment!

The other disciples were committed, too. How do we know?

Because our key verse tells us that when Paul told them about times of great trouble on the route ahead, they were “strengthened.” Sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it? Who’s strengthened when they hear bad news?!

The committed.

Consider the connection between strength and commitment.

When there’s no way out, no escape, no other choice; you strengthen yourself for the only road ahead. For the disciples, there was only one route to heaven and regardless of the trials awaiting them, it was the only route for these committed soldiers.

They were strengthened for the trials because they were committed to the route.

You’re only strengthened before the fire if you’re committed to go through it.

The alternative? Avoidance. It’s the bypass of the uncommitted. Is God calling you to move somewhere you don’t want to? Is He prodding you to change jobs to something that pays less? Is He convicting you to sacrifice comfort or maybe stick to a mission that’s difficult or even dangerous? The option of avoidance is the absence of commitment. They’re mutually exclusive. Full commitment means there’s no other route. And the avoidance option means there’s no real commitment.

Paul called himself a slave of Christ. Had he made a commitment or had he been committed? No way out. No escape. No other choice. Go ahead. Tell God you want to be fully committed. You’ll find that your relationships, your character and your faith will be strengthened, too.