PICKING AND CHOOSING
Lately in the news we have been reading much about proposed legislation, activist speeches, community leadership responses and demonstrations concerning the immigration policies in the United States of America. Much of the controversy stems, not from immigrants who are here legally, rather those who are here illegally or as they like to use the term, “undocumented.” Anyone who knows me is aware that I have strong feelings about this very controversial subject. The purpose of this article is NOT to debate the merits either for or against such policies. My point here is to make an observation that is at the core of our faith – namely: How do we feel about the word of God?
A fact that cannot be denied about these “undocumented” immigrants is that they either entered into this country illegally or else they have stayed here when they were supposed to return to their country of origin. Thus, under present circumstances, they are breaking the law of this land. My concern with this is their attitude toward the laws of this country. We are hearing much about how they are law abiding citizens who pay their taxes, work hard and are simply trying to provide for their families. While their intents may be good and honorable the fact is that THEY ARE BREAKING THE LAW. And with lawbreakers of any type comes a certain mentality – we will obey the laws of the land AS LONG AS WE AGREE WITH THEM. In other words, they pick and choose which laws they will obey. That is a dangerous attitude that is harmful to the health of any endeavor, be it the laws of a country, the work place or in religion. The problem lies in reasoning that one need only obey those laws he likes and/or agrees with. If one doesn’t like a law, he can find a way to reason it away in his mind and therefore be justified in breaking it.
When a country deteriorates to this mentality it is headed for a hard fall. Consider Ecclesiastes 8:11-12, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
Friends this same mentality can be found in much of the religious world today as well. It is no secret that religion in general is much more liberal and tolerant than it used to be. Far too many today base their faith upon a subjective standard (e.g. “This is the way I THINK it ought to be”) instead of objectively opening God’s word to learn what it teaches us to do. They pick and choose what they want to believe and throw the rest of it out. A good illustration of this is the popular denominational mantra, “Attend the church of your choice.” While the good intention is to get you in church somewhere, the natural result of this mentality is to dismiss the importance of doctrinal accuracy and conformity. What is says is that you decide ahead of time what you WANT to believe (pick) and find a church (choose) that will accept your beliefs. The truth becomes irrelevant.
But consider what God’s word says about what we believe. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Question: Which part of God’s will does Jesus expect men to obey to enter the kingdom of heaven? Paul said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-8) Question: How many things did someone have to change about the gospel of Christ to make it a different gospel? We know the answer to these questions!
Consider this also: What causes truth to cease to be truth? It is when we change it. It doesn’t matter how much of the truth we keep, if we change ANY of it, it ceases to be the truth. The same is true with God’s laws. James 2:10 says about the law of God, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” I ask: How many laws does one have to break before he is guilty? The clear answer is ONE. When we choose to disregard ANY of God’s laws, we are no longer following the truth. Instead we are picking and choosing which laws to follow. As Jesus was about to ascend to heaven He instructed His disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations,… teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20) . This teaching did not call for perfect knowledge in order to become a disciple, but rather an ATTITUDE that we will obey all things commanded as we learn of them. In other words, we don’t pick and choose.
Why can people get away with this pick and choose attitude in religion? Because there is ALWAYS someone who is willing to say that they are fine the way they are. And I suppose it has always been that way. Paul warned Timothy to “preach the word” in season and out of season. He then noted, “for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teacher; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 2:2-4). Paul warned us to note those who cause divisions because, “For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16:17-18. Even under the Old Law they wanted to hear smooth speech (cf. Isaiah 30:10, Jeremiah 23:17). Not too many decades ago, even among the different denominations there was general agreement on far more of what the Bible teaches, especially in the area of morality. And where there was disagreement, they were not afraid to voice it and condemn those they perceived in error. But not anymore! Today, people are afraid to stand up and defend what they believe because they might offend someone else. Such an attitude does a disservice to the truth and gives boldness to those who teach and believe error. We are told to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to expose them (Ephesians 5:11). And Satan is having a field day with this attitude. I will tell you that it makes his job much easier because it breeds pure ignorance.
And my greatest concern is that even among brethren, we see this mentality. It is found in appealing to Romans 14 to justify fellowshipping error in matters of doctrine and morality, even though such are NOT addressed in this passage. It is found in cheapening God’s hatred and condemnation of divorce and the sin of remarriage by rewriting Matthew 19:9 and finding ways to say that whatever personal situation one finds themselves relating to, this text doesn’t apply to them. It is found in churches where preachers are expected to not deal with specific subjects (usually the ones needed the most). It is found in various areas of Christian’s lives when they choose to avoid studying a specific subject because they might have to change their behavior. Over and over, we find this reasoning to pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe.
The problem with this, of course is that it doesn’t change God’s word and His judgment one bit. While in the political and social realm, there is great debate about picking and choosing which laws are important to keep and which ones aren’t, understand that in God’s realm there is NO such freedom. Rest assured that you might pick and choose what to believe in this life, but when you stand before God, HIS word will be opened and you will be judged by it “without partiality”. If you chose to set aside portions of God’s word, you will stand condemned for all eternity. Then you will know that you were expected to do ALL that God commanded of you. Instead of picking and choosing what to do, simply choose to serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15). Think about it.