Thursday, April 19, 2018
I’m old enough to remember preachers buying bed sheets and drawing charts to illustrate their sermon. They were called “rag charts.” Human nature being what it is, when the first rag chart appeared, someone probably stated, “It’s a sin to waste a good bed sheet to substitute for a preacher’s inability to paint a picture with words!”
In 1960 I worked with a north Mississippi congregation. The Jule Miller film strips were the latest innovation in personal work. Using that equipment, we had several to respond to the gospel. I was given permission to show the films on consecutive Wednesday nights to make the church aware of this new tool. The first one in the series was “The Patriarchal Age.” After viewing, the membership was excited and looked forward to the next subject, “the Mosaic Age.” However, on Thursday morning one of the elders informed me that the series was cancelled. An elder objected to a continuance because he thought the projector was an instrument in the worship! This cancellation surprised me. In discussing it with him, I pointed out that the projector was not a mechanical instrument of music but equal to the ceiling lights being cooled with a fan. He failed to see the difference. The church never saw the other four! The elder misunderstood several things and his viewpoint was affected by his misconception of worship. Human nature’s negative side had kicked in.
Jesus often included “show and tell” objects in his lessons to assist the understanding of his audiences. He used birds (Matthew 8:20; 13:30), the Temple (Matthew 24), sheep (Matthew 10:16; 12:12; 15:24), flowers (Matthew 6:28), and a fig tree (Matthew 21:19-21). Yes, he could have spoken his lessons without these illustrations, but he used what people were familiar with to teach his lessons. One objection did come from the apostles asking him “why” concerning the fig tree (v.20). Human nature missed the point Jesus was making! Human beings sometimes get things crossed up because we think our conclusions are biblical, but not those of others. I too am susceptible to that condition! We all are if we will admit it.
A well-to-do family planned a wedding for their daughter at the church building. The father wanted to use a piano for the wedding march. The elders refused to allow it because they thought it would be a mechanical instrument of music in the worship. Yet, they did not believe a wedding was “worship.” Also, the “march” being played was not accompanied with congregational singing. Not wishing to alienate a good contributor, nor be guilty of offending their conscience, a compromise was reached. A flatbed trailer was parked next to the auditorium sporting a rented piano. The windows on that side of the building were opened so the wedding march could be heard by those inside! Imagine the bewilderment of the towns people when they learned that the piano’s sound was scriptural originating outside the auditorium, but sinful if it had been produced coming from the inside!? Consistency isn’t always consistent! Human nature sometimes takes precedent over biblical truth!
In some conservative circles, an introduction of a “new” action is often viewed as the launching of the unscriptural! The synagogue practice originated from the Babylonian exiles, rather than being introduced by God. Yet, Jesus did not come unglued over its origin or practice (Matthew 12:9). The original bread used in the Lord’s supper was an unleavened “loaf (the meaning of the Greek word artos),” but today’s crowd doesn’t refuse to partake because we have substituted a small piece of cracker! Today’s way of doing things would probably be unfamiliar to a first century crowd. Would their human nature see those differences as a departure from God’s word? Probably. Today some refuse to practice things found in the first century church, because “we’ve never done it that way”! Some even object to those biblical practices!
Over the years new concepts arise, but not without conflict! However, this condition is not limited to a specific age group, nor narrowed down to a designated church. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, pulpits were charging women with ungodliness because they wanted the right to vote! Those women were accused of destroying the home, church, and society! Some refused to partake when multiple communion cups were introduced in the early twentieth century. These new introductions were thought to be “another gospel”! These newbie introductions divided families. Relationships were strained and broken! Human nature presented Satan with one of his many victory!
Human nature can create false standards. A popular one is, “What we do is biblical because we’ve practiced it for the past five generations or more.” Labeling something as “another gospel” is a favorite path traveled by some. Human nature blinded the objectors to a truth they refused to observe, “What we practice as ‘tried and true’ today, was new for an earlier generation”! Claiming something is biblical because this is what we’ve always done, doesn’t make it so. Because something is new, doesn’t make it sinful. The church I was introduced to in 1957 is not the church of 2018. Human nature has led us to blindly follow the Corinthian division as “gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). We merely substitute something else in the place “of Paul,” but arrive at the same results.
Jesus dealt with human nature in his day. That nature continues to plague each new generation!