It's not so much spoken; it's more of an attitude that people convey. It's evidenced in the way the eyes dart away when you mention that you are a Christian; it's the way the face wrinkles when the Bible is mentioned; it's seen in the shrug of the shoulders when Biblical common sense is applied to a person's problems.
How often have brethren listened intently and commiserated with brethren (or those in the world), who wanted to know what they should do? After a careful study of the Scriptures, the comment is made, "You don't really understand my problem." Translation: "I don't like God's answer to my dilemma."
Incidents like these only serve to demonstrate that oftentimes, when people ask for advice, they are only seeking confirmation of what they have already determined to do. One of the Biblical examples of this practice is seen in the book of Jeremiah; it concerns an event that happened shortly after the captivity.
The governor over the land had been murdered by a rebel named Ishmael. Johanan led the Israelites in a battle against him, but Ishmael escaped. Now they were worried about Babylon; how would their conquerors view the death of their governor? They came to Jeremiah and asked him what they should do, insisting that whatever the answer was, they would comply.
Then they said to Jeremiah, "Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you, whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord..." (Jer. 42:5-6).
Aren't those the sentiments of most people who ask for advice? "Tell me anything. I'm so lost and confused. My life is in such a mess. I can't see any way out." But look what happened to the Israelites when Jeremiah delivered God's answer.
The answer was two fold. First was the assurance that remaining where they were would be all right; God would take care of them and protect them from the king of Babylon (Jer. 42:9-13). The second part of the message was: "Don't go to Egypt; you will be destroyed there" (Jer. 42:14-22). And what was Israel's response? The proud men, including Johanan, said: "You speak falsely! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, 'Do not go to Egypt to sojourn there.'" (Jer. 43:2).
What was the problem? Neither Jehovah (nor Jeremiah His prophet) told the people what they wanted to hear. They might just as well have said, "We were hoping you'd confirm the best of our human wisdom and tell us that the smart thing to do would be to flee to Egypt."
Some in the Lord's church today, and many more who are not Christians, have duplicated the above scenario. They would prefer listening to Buddha, Shirley MacLaine, or an outright atheist than to the Lord.
Anything but Christianity;
Any answer but Jehovah's;
The above poem (penned by this poor poet) exemplifies the attitude that many people possess. It's a very fundamental creed that folks use when trying to arrive at practical solutions to life's problems; it's the ABC philosophy to problem solving--Anything But Christianity. It's as if those who are troubled will try any bit of advice under the sun--except that which will do them the most good: the Truth.
"Tell me anything; I'm desperate. Advise me to try yoga and transcendental meditation. Tell me to study my daily horoscope. Take me to someone who can read tea leaves or interpret tarot cards. I'd be willing to sit underneath crystals and wait for the sun to strike them at just the right angle. Tell me to climb a mountain to speak to a Tibetan monk. Charge me all kinds of money if it will lead to clearing matters up. I'll do anything except study the Bible; that's not an option."
The typical person does not reject Biblical counsel because it does not apply--but because it does, and they do not like the application. Many are just like the Israelites of Jeremiah's day: God's will concerning the matter is presented to them, and it was the very thing they did not want to hear. So they refuse it. Some will go so far as to say, "God never said that."
Take fornication, for example. When young people engage in such, the consequences become several. First, they must find a way to live with the guilt they experience. Then they look for ways to be deceptive--they begin lying to their parents. Next there is the possibility of pregnancy, which (especially if they are like the girl, whose letter to the editor is on the next page) may result in the worse sin of murder. Fourth, the possibility of syphillis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or AIDS is great. "Safe sex" does not appear to be protecting a very large segment of teenagers.
But if someone points out that the Biblical method of avoiding all these problems (not to mention SIN) is to abstain from fornication ("flee" from it, in fact--1 Cor. 6:18), he will be scoffed at: "Tell me anything but that. That's not realistic." Why is it not realistic? Because such is not the advice that those eager to commit fornication wish to hear!
Mankind has always wanted to be told that he can sin and still be acceptable unto God. He stands ready to try almost anything that will allow him to continue practicing whatever sin it is that he favors. Perhaps the New Age philosophy is gaining in popularity for the precise reason that it makes few moral judgments.
Consider the individual in a major marriage mess. He or she comes in to study the Bible with great protestations of, "I just want to do what is right. What does the Bible say about my situation?" But when the Scriptures are presented, it becomes obvious that what God says is not of paramount importance; the person simply wants someone to agree that the marriage may safely be exited.
If the Scriptures do not grant that option, many will go ahead and then deal with the consequences of their "remarriage" later. If one congregation adheres to the truth on the matter, they will search until they find one less legalistic, more loving, and with advanced measures of compassion--in other words, one that will allow them to continue in their adultery (and unfortunately, usually find one). Like their Old Testament counterparts, they reason that, "God wants what I want. He wants me to be happy. How dare you suggest I can't divorce and remarry? God never said that."
Many in the ranks of the homosexuals seek to soothe their consciences by saying that the Bible doesn't prohibit their vile actions. "Why, Sodomites were just inhospitable; that's why God destroyed them. How could God call me a sinner when He made me this way?" Individuals of this stripe will never be convinced of their sins; like Johanan, they are convinced that God could never have said such things. They will go to Egypt no matter what the cost.
Of course, people can deny the Bible by refusing to obey positive commands, also. "What do you mean, attend worship every Sunday? Hey, that's my day to rest. That's a time for family get-togethers." The mere existence of 150,000 sermons and bulletin articles on this subject cannot move such "brethren" any more than an ant could tilt Gibraltar.
The same holds true for personal evangelism. "Why, preacher, I've only been a member of the church for 25 years; I can't remember where all those verses of Scripture are on all those subjects, like salvation. Anyway, what are we paying you for?"
Brethren do not think verses requiring all of us to be evangelistic apply to them for the same reason that the homosexual can't find a verse that condemns his behavior--it's not what he wants to hear. As Simon and Garfunkel once sang: "Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."
The Bible is right; the Scriptures are Truth. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Pr. 14:12). Those who are truly wise will conform their thoughts and views to God's, not try to bend His to their way of thinking. The ABC philosophy will not yield everlasting life; usually, it will not even bring about earthly happiness. Don't exchange the feast of eternal life for a few crumbs of satisfaction.
* Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "The ABC Philosophy (3/30/97)."