The “Fuzzy” Search

Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until the last update to our Bible program arrived. Right up front it was highlighted as a great new feature.

A Fuzzy search. Of all the useless ideas that people can come up with, I recall thinking to myself. What could be the worth of a fuzzy search?

Well, it has proved to be one of the most useful tools in the bag. To find a verse that has slipped your mind, now you can say it in your own words and most of the time “fuzzy” will find it for you!

Because fuzzy doesn’t depend on the exact word. It looks for the sense of what you ask, or the tone, or the implied meaning. I have found it amazingly intuitive. Even when your thinking is fuzzy, it will go by the idea or the context and suggest possibilities.

Isn’t there a parallel here with how God has communicated His thoughts to us in Scripture? Maybe we don’t like thinking of it as fuzzy, but neither can it use the exact words when it is being written for people living in different parts of the world and separated by hundreds or thousands of years.

How could God tell us in His word the right way to use the internet, or online streaming, or a computer, or a cellphone? How could God tell us the right way to drive a car, or shop in a store, or use our English language?

That is why Scripture lays down PRINCIPLES that we can learn and apply in our situation. Yes, they are not exact; they are fuzzy. But the meaning is powerful.

That is also why the Bible communicates by symbols and metaphors. Symbols and metaphors are fuzzy, but when we see them in the context of Scripture and the plan of God they make “sense.” And they are timeless.

The Bible tells us what we need to watch out for, and what to avoid in a context of spiritual benefit.

Let’s look at some examples.

Jesus’ teaching was all about principles that apply in our lives. Fuzzy, if you will, but not ambiguous. And certainly not indefinite. The message is clear: This, He says, is what you must do.

Let’s start with what is commonly called the “Golden Rule.” What is it?

Matthew 7:12  12Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

The principle comes from the law and the prophets, so it isn’t new with Jesus.

And the principle takes application.

Whatever you want someone to do to you, that is what you should do to them. This is where the “rule” is fuzzy – it must be applied and become a principle.

What is Jesus saying?

Do you let your young child play with knives and razors—because that is what you would have liked to do at his age?

If you are a judge, do you let a serious criminal free because that is what you would like if you were the criminal?

If you are an elementary schoolteacher, do you let the class spend the afternoon on the playground because that is what you would like if you were one of the children?

Jesus’ rule observed literally would require this. But no, we need the Fuzzy search, which tells us the implied meaning in Jesus’ words, that it is considering the best interest of each side.

In real life, then, fuzzy makes it into what has been called the Platinum Principle. As such the Golden Rule could be re-phrased to read:

“Therefore whatever you want men to do to you [if governed solely by a desire for spiritual growth and improvement, yours and theirs] do also to them.”

The Fuzzy search teaches us the need to discern, to judge and evaluate, not just take a word at its face value. What is discernment according to Scripture? Hebrews defines it well. It is something we must learn.

First the author says the brethren have been keeping too much to baby food. It is time that they were growing up!

Hebrews 5:12–13  12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.

Unskilled in the word, he says, because you lack practice in applying it.

Hebrews 5:14  14But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Have our senses exercised to discern—separate–classify. He says, Practice analyzing situations, even those you do not directly face. It is good spiritual exercise. Ask yourself: What is right to SAY? to THINK? to DO? If that were my test, how would I respond to it? What is the right course? What is the BEST course?

The Psalmist put this discerning in meaningful terms when he faced life head-on with the question:

Psalm 34:12–14  12Who is the man who desires life, And loves many days, that he may see good?

Apply the fuzzy search, and what comes up? Continuing in Psalm 34,

13Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit. 14Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.

It is about what we say

13Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit.

It is about what we do, good or evil:

14Depart from evil and do good;

It is about what we go after.

14… Seek peace and pursue it.

But here again, every phrase needs application, the fuzzy kind. It has to apply in our lives HERE and NOW.

HOW do we “keep our tongue” from evil? What is right to say or not say—according to the principles in God’s Word?This takes DISCERNMENT, ruling out all that is irreverent, ungodly, vulgar, hasty, or arrogant. It rules out joking and lightness. Go to Ephesians 5:

Ephesians 5:2–4  2And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 3But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

If we search our words carefully, our sense for the fuzzy will pick up all that is not God-honoring. That is the key—it is not always about the specific word but the attitude behind it and why we said it.

It is all about discerning what is good or evil, keeping that sense of honoring God in everything. Paul was addressing basics when he wrote,

1 Corinthians 10:31  31Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

It’s a comprehensive principle it includes everything we do, say and think. All has to be God pleasing and God honoring.

What does God ask me to change in my life right here and now?

This is discerning, the fuzzy search, searching out the evil in our hearts by comparing with God’s standard of holiness. God’s principles affect every part of our lives, as Paul wrote to Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:12  12Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

This is what David prayed for in Psalm 139:

Psalm 139:23–24  23Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: 24And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

When it comes to looking into our own hearts and lives, don’t we sometimes need a fuzzy search? one that will show where we lack, maybe even where we are just beginning to see and are not quite ready to call it by its true name?

That is why Jeremiah prayed,

Jeremiah 10:23  23O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

On our own, we won’t get there. We need God’s help, and often that help comes through human instruments that God blesses us with, so that we can both receive and give help as we go along. This is why Jeremiah took it to heart and prayed,

Jeremiah 10:24  24O Lord, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing.

The fuzzy search picks it up, and we see it is something we need to start working to correct.

Paul spoke of this at the end of his second Epistle to the Corinthians, again with a fuzzy search, one that would see whatever is there. We might search for the word “find” or “correct.” Fuzzy brings us a deeper-searching term: Examine.

2 Corinthians 13:5  5Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

In context, Paul is saying, My brothers and sisters, it is yourselves that you must continually test, … yourselves that you must continually prove.

They had been challenging Paul and his authority. Paul says in reply, it isn’t your job to be approving me, you need to look at yourselves.

The Psalmist had put a similar plea to God:

Psalm 26:1–2  1Vindicate me, O Lord, For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. 2Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.

He says, I want to be totally honest. Check me, Lord, prove me. Test my thoughts and motives. He said it again in chapter 139.

Psalm 139:23–24  23Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: 24And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

By instinct we want to cover the wrong. But if we really want to be right with God, more than anything else, we will suspicion ourselves where we might be wrong. This approach is much safer than if we gloss over what might be wrong.

Fuzzy searching is an asset, because every principle cannot be spelled out in exact words 2000 years in advance. The principal is there, however, so that it can be identified with the fuzzy parameters. Do a fuzzy search; you’ll be gratified that you picked up more than you expected, and God will be pleased, because you are making headway against your nature. And this is why:

Proverbs 6:23  23For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,

Let us be open and anxious for whatever God’s fuzzy search picks up in our hearts that needs correcting, now while the time is still extended, so that we can be READY for the life to come, that life EVERLASTING!