The Blind Men and the Elephant

“The Blind Men and the Elephant” is a well-known folktale from India that gives us a picture of the Church today. According to the parable, there once were six blind men who had never experienced an elephant before and wanted to know the animal by touch. Each blind man felt a particular section of the elephant. As the men groped about, they argued with each other based on their individual experiences. The first blind man felt the animal’s trunk and said, “An elephant is like a thick snake.” The second man reached the ear and determined, “An elephant is like a fan.” Another man felt the leg and stated, “An elephant is a pillar like a tree trunk.” The fourth man felt the elephant’s side and insisted, “The elephant is a wall!” The fifth man felt the animal’s tail and declared, “An elephant is a rope!” The last man felt its tusk and stated, “The elephant is hard and smooth like a spear.” Hearing them argue, the Rajah kindly asked, “How can each of you be so certain you are right? The elephant is a very large animal and each man touched only one part. Perhaps if you put the parts together, you will see the truth.”1

 

Although the parable has several variations, each version emphasizes the limits of perception and the importance of complete context. It is a great example for us. When we look to evaluate what is going on in the Church, we must recognize that everyone has had a different experience. Your experience is not wrong, it just may not be everyone else’s experience. But it is also not the definition of the whole. It reminds me of the meeting recorded in Acts 15. The leaders of the Church came together to decide on a major pivotal issue, “What do we do with these Gentiles?” The believers who had come together for this important discussion laid out their experiences, revelations, and observations of what the Holy Spirit was doing. Then James brought a word of confirmation as a plumb line, and everyone bore witness to it.

 

Once again, the Church must come together with a freedom of communication and find a way of confirmation by the Holy Spirit. If we are going to correct things, we need to find out why they went wrong and fix them. We also need to ask, “What makes things go right?” As we do, we will have the same experience we read about in Acts 15. Input from people will cover a vast range of concerns, needs, ideas, and thoughts from one end of the pendulum to the other. That is why we must be dedicated to hearing the voice of the Lord and finding the leading of the Spirit. That must be our primary drive when we come together.

 

For the Body of Christ to see a freedom of communication, we cannot be moved or swayed by our own ideas or concepts. Instead, we must be given to the process of being a prophetic community and lay our concepts on the table for confirmation. We must believe in the reality of confirmation. If we are driven to see the Kingdom of God come in the earth, God will speak to us, confirm what we need to do, and show us the direction to take. This is not a small vision; it is what the Word has taught us to believe for: one hope, one Lord, one Spirit, one calling, and one way we should all be walking together (Ephesians 4:1-6).

 

1 All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible 1995 (NASB1995).