Conduit or Complication?
I once heard the story of a young woman who was preparing her first Easter dinner. As she prepped the ham to go into the oven, she quickly sliced each end off of the shank. Curious about her culinary technique, her husband asked, “Honey, why did you cut off those ends?” She paused for a moment, as if caught by surprise, and said, “That’s the way my mom always fixed it.” Now the young couple were curious together. So when the wife’s mother came over, they asked her why the ends of the ham had to be removed. The mother’s reaction mirrored her daughter’s, and with a shrug she stated, “That’s the way Grandma always did it.”
Soon everyone’s interest was piqued! When the matriarch of the family arrived at Easter dinner, the couple nearly accosted her with their inquisition. The newlywed granddaughter was the first to ask, “Grandma, we are really confused. When you fixed Easter dinner, what was your purpose for cutting off both ends of the ham?” The entire family leaned in close as if to hear a profound nugget of wisdom. Leaning in herself, the grandmother said, “Well now, honey, it’s the only way I could get it to fit inside my pan!”
You probably have heard that story before. It’s an oldie but a goodie! But as I listened to Pastor Tim Armstrong’s teaching on The Biblical Church, I couldn’t help recalling this tale. To me, two extremely powerful principles are nestled in the account:
- We can habitually practice incomplete truth.
- We need to be careful to understand why we believe what we believe.
God revealed those warnings to me through different circumstances recently. (Ahem…please give me a moment while I swallow my pride.) I have been an active participant in our country's democratic process since I was 18. To me, one of the most exciting parts of being a legal adult was the chance to cast my vote for our nation’s federal, state, and local representatives. I have missed voting in only one or two elections in all my grown-up years.
To this day, I would still say that the practice of voting is good. Recent conversations with some of my young adult friends, however, have caused me not only to question the why of my voting, but also the true meaning of Jesus’s words, ”Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
I think I may have fallen into the same snare as many American Christians in recent years. We have muddied the line between our faith in Jesus and our rights and privileges as US citizens. As the blare of talk radio has intersected with my reading of God’s Word, I have somehow equated my voting habits with my Christian duty. After all, I was following the words of Christ Himself—my vote was “rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” When our Savior spoke those words, however, He was referring to the law of paying taxes, not to the privilege of casting a vote.
As I heard my young friends share their reluctance to vote in US elections, I was tempted not only to judge them, but also to misquote my Shepherd’s words in Mark 12. Thankfully, I found God’s gracious way out of that temptation and was able to silently ponder the conversation instead. But what if I hadn’t heeded the Holy Spirit’s caution? What if I had spoken against my Christian siblings in judgment and misquoted Christ’s words? What effect would that have had not only on our relationship, but also on my fellow believers’ journey with the Lord?
My example may seem trite, but is it? Pastor Armstrong says that the Biblical Church not only believes a great revelation, but practices it as well. And while we might consider our country a Representative Republic—a country where public servants represent the will of their voting constituents—as Christians, we are the representation of God’s Divine Word every day to all who cross our path. And I want to represent Him well. Don’t you?
My political discussion with my friends revealed an ugly truth within me. I had been mistakenly cultivating a hidden agenda that, however big or small, was setting me up as a hinderance to God and His Word. That revelation sobered me enough to begin examining all of my closely-held beliefs, and I would encourage you to do the same. We can begin by asking these questions:
- Why do I believe what I believe?
- Do my practices point to my beliefs?
- Are any of my beliefs and/or practices causing others to stumble?
- How can I become a conduit of God’s Word, rather than a complication to it?
While the things we learn might smart a bit at first, allowing them to do their good work will bring life to us and our neighbors!