If you were to open the Merriam-Webster dictionary app and look up the word “discern,” you would probably get a few ads and two somewhat contradicting definitions.
The first definition for discern is “to detect with the eyes.” Then directly below, an alternate definition says, “to detect with senses other than vision.”
So to detect with your eyes and not with your eyes. At the same time.
This is discernment. Got it.
If that isn’t a perfect example of the confusion concerning discernment in Christianity today, then I don’t know what is.
The example Merriam-Webster provides for the latter definition, the one we’ll be focusing on, is “// discerned a strange odor.” So essentially if your sense of smell is intact, you should be in a pretty good position to discern where a smell is coming from, what that smell signifies, and how to respond appropriately.
In the same way our sense of smell alerts us to delicious, consumable foods, *like a fresh baked apple pie,* our ability to smell can also alert us quickly to food that has gone bad. Once milk has started to sour, all you need to do in order to discern this is open the lid and take a whiff. With little effort , it would be clear the milk was not fit for consumption. Without the ability to smell, you would have to approach food a little more carefully, with a little more thoughtfulness, than before.
Loss of Smell
One of the most common side effects of the first COVID-19 variant was the loss of smell. This served as an initial indicator that a person might be sick. For some people, this was the only symptom they experienced from the virus. For others, like one of my family members, the virus turned devastatingly fatal.
As I continued to simultaneously hear people talk about how long it was taking to regain their ability to smell and watch Christian’s consume half-truths and false narratives with little to no hesitation, a question began to form. Could this symptom of COVID-19, an inability to smell, be symbolic of a larger spiritual issue – our inability to have proper spiritual discernment?
Now, to be clear, losing your ability to smell due to COVID-19 doesn’t mean you lack spiritual discernment (and vice versa). But just as we should be wary of our lack of physical smell, so to should we be wary of our lack of spiritual smell.