Ah, our old friend and ace in the hole "yeah, but...". Normally preceded by "Well Scripture says X" to which we respond "Yeah, but...". Even among (especially among?) "Bible believing" Evangelical Christians, there are still so many passages that we run into that really make us squirm. More often than not, when we are faced with Scripture that runs contrary to our presuppositions and traditions, we simply shrug and explain it away or flat out ignore it. The typical response is "Yeah, but..." Here are a couple of examples:
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. (Joh 13:14)
Yeah, but that is kind of weird and intimate. Maybe we can just shake hands and ask how the other person is doing, even though we don't care and don't listen. I mean, we sat in the same room for an hour during "worship". Isn't that intimate fellowship?
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Act 4:32-35)
Yeah, but this is America. That might have been fine in ancient Palestine but we have been blessed with cars and iPods and plasma TVs. We have a right to private property. Sure my brother is hungry and in need, but after all I worked for what I have. I like my stuff. It is mine. My rights as an American trump my obligations as a Christian. Hey, want to come over later and watch the game on my new 52" TV? God has been so good to me!
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1Co 14:26)
Yeah, but not everyone is a good speaker or singer. Some people are boring or less theologically trained. They might say the wrong thing or say something contrary to our doctrinal statement or creed. We can't have that so let's have one person do all the talking.
"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luk 6:27-36)
Yeah, but what about my right to self-defense? Plus there is that whole "just war theory" that says it is OK. I think God should have stuck with that "eye for an eye" thing, it makes more sense to me. After all, how can I pray for someone like Barack Obama?
Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. (1Co 11:4-6)
Yeah, but it looks weird. My wife likes her hair to look just so, and if she covers her head people might look at her weird and it will mess her hair up. Besides, we are far more enlightened than those people back then. That was fine in the first century but now? Why bother.
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Mat 22:36-40)
Well, no one can do that. So I will be nice to the people I like in the couple of hours a week I spend with them. If someone wants to pray for them, I will dutifully bow my head and try to pay attention. I mean I like my neighbors and all, just as long as they don't become too bothersome and needy.
The heresy of pragmatism infects every corner of the church. It is not something that is relegated to just the "seeker sensitive" movement but is also found among the reformed, the liturgical, the fundamentalists. What is easy trumps what it is hard, what is practical trumps what is scriptural, what is traditional trumps what is true. If someone from the early church were dropped into one of our church services, they would have no idea what was going on. If one of us was dropped into a first century gathering of the church, we would beat feet for the nearest pagan temple.
We all, starting with me and my house, better start denying ourselves and taking up our crosses daily. We all look a lot like the church of Sardis, alive in reputation but long dead in spirit. There is still a little life left, but not much.
"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: 'The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. "'I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. (Rev 3:1-5)