So in light of this, it has to be concluded that there are some stances that are not in themselves unbiblical or wrong. I am loathe to write so topically, as it were, because I would prefer to focus less upon temporal realities and more upon eternal ones, but how often do I actually implement that in my life? It’s an ideal worthy of commendation, but its emphasis can short circuit and turn into ignoring important things in the here and now. I’m thinking specifically of the proposal concerning state employees being scrutinized by many in Wisconsin right now. Emotions are running high, and I think that this knee-jerk emotionalism is one of the bigger issues for individuals to overcome in trying to discern how to reach a conclusion that is pleasing to God. I have a predisposition to knee-jerk reactions of one sort, and we have heard reactions from the opposite end of the spectrum, and all of us are wrong in that. Rampant emotionalism is not a vital ingredient in seeking and applying wisdom. More often than not, it’s a “Road Closed” sign suddenly appearing on the route you’re used to and your GPS isn’t on hand.
I have a bad habit of fostering my dissatisfaction and disgust by seeking persons with similar temperaments and bad habits and together nursing our collective indignation and vitriol. I am too easily pleased with hosting my adult version of a pity party, but I’m spared some degree of shame by the knowledge that that is what human beings do. It’s not right, but that’s our natural inclination. If we were honest, that’s one of the primary reasons we listen to talk radio and bait ourselves for outrage and scandal and all manner of bitterness, and we guzzle it down like a Gatorade after finishing the Tour de France- we love to indulge the chips on our shoulders and feel superior to others. The craziest part of this, I think, is that as we grow more frustrated and angry, we feel a proportionate sense of moral accomplishment for some reason. I mention this because of the sheer volume of rhetoric being volleyed to and fro, and I perceive little to no resulting edification in much of it.
When the Bible does not offer a proposition in the form of “Do this,” or “Do not do this,” one must examine carefully the motives of their actions, words, and thoughts and not stop at, “There’s no direct command, so it’s fine.” Saying that is the failure to recognize that an action in and of itself may be acceptable but that the underlying condition of the heart may be sinful. You need look no further than some people’s stances on music. I think everyone knows I like me some rock, but listening to rock music is not the lighthouse beckoning all into the freedom of electric guitars and away from the shoals of legalism. I could waste tons of hard-earned money which should go towards other things of more pressing importance and higher priority, or I could be listening to it as some infantile form of rebellion or take me back to a time in my life I should not be fondly recollecting and should rather be persevering away from. None of those things are good, and they mar the action which by itself wasn’t a bad thing necessarily.
Very careful scrutiny must be made therefore to know why we’re for or against such and such a proposal or bill or what have you. It may be the case that one person is for and one against and neither is sinning because the issue at hand is not specifically addressed in the Bible and their hearts are not harboring sin as the motivating force for their decision. In other words, I can’t condemn someone against the proposal regarding state employees on the basis of their being against the proposal because we don’t have a “Thou shalt not reduce the benefits of state employees” command. Where the aforementioned thorniness enters is in why I hold the stance I do. If I’m for it because I believe, “Teachers are entitled to fantastic benefits because… well, they just are!” that’s wrong. If I’m against it because I’m thinking, “Now we have our chance to teach those teachers a lesson!” that’s wrong. It has to come down to dealing with objective reality we all face, speaking solely in terms of facts gathered from that reality, and then trying to pursue a reasonable course of action that satisfies the preliminary condition. That’s hard, but it does lead to far fewer shouting matches (which are just plain obnoxious and typically signal an unconscious white flag being raised).
So to reiterate (because this is applicable in countless ways), “Why do I want x?” is an examination of the heart which is essential towards responsible decision making for the believer. Owning a $100,000 car isn’t wrong- it’s a car. But if you ask, “Why do I want that $100,000 car?” and you find that you want to inject a sense of class into your suburban existence, be the pride of the neighborhood, and elicit a few envious looks from others, then you have pretty terrible reasons for sinking that much money into a hunk of metal and bolts. A hunk of metal doesn’t stamp significance onto your file all of a sudden. All it does is get you around to where you have to go. And with a ride that sets you back $100,000 my guess is that you’re not actually going to be using it that much versus if you just stuck with a Ford Focus* or something. This has been a lesson for me because I am so prone to both the “Everyone is entitled to my opinion” error and the self-nourished bitterness error. When Scripture speaks, we must listen and live accordingly. When Scripture is silent, we must put to death our sinful inclinations and seek the wisdom it does offer to guide us forward.
In other (happier!) news, Kristin and I became members of Morning Star yesterday and we couldn’t be more thrilled! Thank you, MSBC for making us feel so welcome, for accepting us and for living out the gospel everyday!
*I promise that was not a burn on anyone with a Ford Focus!