I don’t get it. Somehow we think that if something is too non-middle-of-the-road, it must not be the only way. We are so mortally afraid of being called legalistic,* therefore, that when we hear a label, say “conservative” – or attach it ourselves – to an idea about God or what pleases Him, we automatically assume that there must be another way, that the answer must be unknowable, that “to each his own” is the rule because the issue is “not clear”, or “not an essential doctrine”, or what have you.
Thus everything we call “interesting” when it offends our preferences, but it does nothing to push us into thinking in a Scripture-saturated, diligently God-centred way about what is right and excellent and the best: we prefer – for preference is the “power of the purse” – to challenge ourselves on fervour but not on direction or way of doing. Yes, there are different ways to respond to many different situations. The thing is, given one condition, there is only one best way for that condition. To fixate on there being multiple ways to do something, if we’re speaking of one specific circumstance, is moot.
But we do this all the time: we pick what doesn’t offend us and our community, what does not strike us as unmanageable, and then, even for the things we choose, we do it without strength of conviction, while the word “conviction” has become to us a mechanism for shielding ourselves from having to gaze into God’s eyes and maybe have to undergo a deep change, perhaps even on the level of repentance, for something we thought was oh-so-dandy.
Even for the things we choose, we do it without strength of conviction, while the word “conviction” has become to us a mechanism for shielding ourselves from having to gaze into God’s eyes.
If something someone says is based on accurately interpreted Scripture, it would be more than a good idea to at least consider how well one’s own idea measures up to that standard. If one’s own thought is less thoroughly based on Biblical truth, as opposed to our interpretation of our experience or our conception of our society’s “common sense”, it is probably better to take the other idea as more likely to be true, in which case the status quo is not worth keeping. How’s that for change, huh?
Instead, we disclaim ideas, maybe sometimes even truths, by attaching a useless label to them. What should it matter to me what’s liberal, what’s conservative, what’s been traditional, what’s radically “new”, if the only thing that really matters for my life’s sanctification is whether it’s right, and how much it honours God? If God commands something radical, so be it, and it is immaterial to me what its position is on the social spectrum. What else can it mean to leave all, truly all, and follow Jesus? Can we hold back?
P.S. And here I thought this would be a one-paragraph post. I should’ve known I wouldn’t be satisfied with what I could say in one paragraph.
* Not that relatively conservative churches are not more prone to legalism or a legalistic environment, but that is a separate issue.