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The “Only one right way” trap

One of the dangers of black and white thinking is that it creates a tendency to believe there is only one right way to do all things in the church. One right musical style, one right mood or tone for worship and preaching, one right process for Lord’s Supper, one right way to preach the gospel and so on. All of us already tend towards the error of presuming our personal favourite way of doing things is the one true way, but this stark way of thinking locks the options down even more. And in that locking down, Spirit inspiration, God’s real will, and biblical guidance gladly get ignored for the sake of protecting what we believe is the one right way and what we are comfortable with. Fear of offending what is right reigns. Black and White, wrong-or-right thinking is strongly for or strongly against things in an almost reactionary way, and does not have much room for middle ground. When this way of thinking is active in a community, there will be a huge fear of wandering off into doing things even slightly differently.

As a creative person who gets bored quickly with the same-old same-old, I admit I can’t really understand this and don’t have much patience for it. So I have to be extra careful, because I know that some people are wired completely the opposite of myself and need a lot of consistency and predictability. But when I think this through, bible in mind, I cannot find evidence that we are called to find the one true way of doing things and then lock into it. To do that is to not be constantly Reforming, as is one of our Reformed tennets or principles. So it baffles me when I encounter such inflexibility.

What this rigid thinking creates is a suspicion of any difference.

I have had some great conversations now with people about the Good Friday service. We have all learned from the experience. One big challenge for people was the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup immediately upon receiving it. What I believe a person who is not a black and white thinker and who has some emotional and spiritual maturity will do, in such a situation, is notice how it is not the normal way, notice how it is uncomfortable, and then begin to explore within themselves why that is so, asking “What in me is resisting this?” They start with examining the inside of the vessel they are. They don’t start with assuming this thing that is uncomfortable is automatically wrong. They look for what is to be learned. And a community of people doing that while looking to scripture Spirit and God will become a healthy flourishing community bringing glory to God. Some new things will be embraced as enhancing their nearness to God, and others will be discarded as not doing so. From the discussions I see that taking the elements off communion like we did should and will probably not happen again. And if it is it should be clearly explained that it is done that way to reflect the command “Eat it in haste” from Exodus 12:11.

A community that is trapped in believing there is only one right way, and that to wander from that is to sin and offend God, will lash out at the one who put them in that circumstance of discomfort. They will not be able to get over their anxiety and discomfort and be reflective and learn and grow. They will want it declared “wrong” and put things in place to never wander from it again. And they will completely miss other important meaning in a Good Friday service because they can’t get past that moment of discomfort. That is sad. That thinking creates all kinds of problems in a church and churches. I do not believe it is what God calls us to.

I believe we serve and love an incredibly creative God. We are made in the image of that creative God. So we are creative. We are not all the same. This creative God did not create a black and white world, but a world of a vast array of colour, of variety. This God did not make one elephant, but several types of them. I can imagine this God, shortly after having made maybe a zebra, thinking with delight “What if we made it spotted and then stretched the neck and legs a lot? Let’s see what that would look like!” and we now have the giraffe.

As images and children of that God, I cannot understand how we want to put every part of that creation and our experience of it into black and white categories, into neat little boxes of right and wrong. I am waiting to learn how that is a spiritually healthy thing to do.

 

 

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