Pious Peewee Pigeonholes
When I was growing up, my family owned a Chihuahua, a dog with the physique of an emaciated hamster and the temperament of a fur-covered Bobby Knight. Diamond weighed no more than five pounds—and all but three ounces of that was bluster and irritability.
Whenever another dog dared set paw in his territory, Diamond would fly into a barking rage meant to speak menace and strike fear, but that basically sounded like the squeak of a rubber mouse being vigorously squeezed by a toddler. Though trespassing pooches never bolted or even sped up, once they ambled out of our yard Diamond would strut back to the house as though he had just single-handedly turned back the invading Spanish Armada. Through such overwrought demonstrations our dust mote-sized canine was able to maintain a highly inflated notion of his powers of intimidation.
It sometimes seems to me that the world of religion has more spiritual Chihuahuas than it needs. What I mean by that is that some of those who yap the loudest about gospel, Bible-based truth tend to arrogantly overestimate how much God-revealed insight they actually possess.
I am third generation Church of God. My grandmother took her stand with the movement—all four feet, ten inches of her—amid the hills ’n’ hollers of Tennessee during the hardscrabble days of the Great Depression. One of the things early Church of God leaders were consistent in preaching was that God calls us, in the spirit of Christ himself, to pursue and embrace all truth (John 16:13). That’s easier said than done. Unfortunately it’s far too easy to become reactionary and expectorate verities that differ in any way from those we particularly like to roll around on our doctrinal palates.
Be we conservative, liberal, evangelical, fundamentalist, progressive, holiness, or charismatic decaffeinated, it’s tempting to cull from the Bible and theological thought what suits our fancy and stop there, supposing we have grasped the full mind of God. If presented with a truth that does not easily fit into our pious peewee pigeonholes, we are apt to snap and snarl at the bearers like…well, like high-strung little dogs guarding their territory.
Jesus continually reminded his listeners that God’s truth reaches well beyond our short-armed grasp. That’s why he shamed rowdies from a self-righteous religious mob into dropping their adulteress-thumbing rocks and cautioned a well-to-do man that reflecting God’s heart requires more than a letter-of-the-law keeping of the commandments (John 8 and Mark 10). Jesus said to those first-century individuals, and says to us, that truth that fails to challenge us to go beyond where we feel comfortable in going is rarely enough truth to mold us into the people God calls us to be.
The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Church of God Ministries or, at points, even the writer, but are written with tongue firmly planted in cheek to hopefully provoke a leavening bit of laughter and a smidgen of thought.