I keep reading blogs, books, and hearing lessons and seminars on how if we’ll only do abc or 123 we’ll be godly, happy, healthy, wealthy, or wise.
Keep all your children isolated until they’re 35 and then have an arranged marriage for them and they’ll never sin.
Live an ascetic life and you’ll have a perfect home, godly kids, and less housework.
Use my homeschooling method and your kids will succeed academically beyond your wildest dreams.
Parent Jon Dough’s way and you’re guaranteed a kid who is compliant, independent, respectful, and fun.
It always starts with a principle. Let’s assume that First Opinions chapter four verse six says, “An unclothed table is succeptible to destruction.” The principle is clear- we need to protect the table. One method would be to keep a cloth on the table to help protect the wood from damage and dirt. Another method might be putting tempered glass over the table It has a nice advantage of allowing the beauty of the wood to shine through while still protecting it from spills and scratches. There are other options of course but let’s just stick with these two.
The methods are good things. They help us apply principles to our lives. Without methods, we tend to be ever “learning but never coming to the knowledge” of something. Not all methods are equal but people usually have a reason for why they chose theirs. For example, with the methods I’ve described, maybe Jane’s grandmother always used a cloth, Jane’s mother always used one, and Jane herself has followed suit. Cloths just ‘feel’ right. Why wouldn’t you use a cloth? But Sally, who used to use cloth, got tired of washing the thing, hated the stains that resulted, and still thought that the things that soaked through the cloth were bad for the wood so when she found glass, she was all for it!
Oh dear. Two methods. What ever will happen? Well, honestly, most people choose a preference and move on with life. After all, who wants to get worked up over cloth or glass on tabletops. This is a good thing that it usually stops here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always. Inevitably, a method will grow into something stronger than it was ever intended to be. It was meant to be a means of accomplishing an end but instead, it has now become the end- the goal. Now, instead of the slave, the method is the slavemaster.
And method begats lifestyle. Suddenly, there are books, videos, CDs, and seminars about why you should avoid cloth or glass like the plague. Others come out with different methods. Oh no, vinyl is the best! It has the protective qualities of glass without the harshness! Entire subcultures of society emerge as people allow the simple choice of how to cover your table to invade every corner of their lives.
The worst part is when as a final rejection of the lifestyle extreme, a new breed arises. They’ll reject all table coverings as unnatural. The table was designed and created to be as it is. It’s wrong to cover it at all! So, because common sense has been tossed out the east windows, we now toss it out of the west too and in the end, what do we have? Tables covered, not, and with differing products. People clustered around others who have made the same table covering choices- each suspiciously looking at the other groups as though they are out to corrupt the purity of their table doctrines.
It’s just a table. You are allowed to like it with cloth, glass, vinyl, or any other substance. You’re allowed to choose not to cover it at all.
Contrary to the way we act sometimes, God didn’t make everything a sin or not. Some things are left to our preferences and discretion. And this is ok. One woman can use Tapestry of Grace to teach her children while another uses PACEs. Neither are more holy. One can grow all of her own food while another shops at the grocery store- God didn’t condemn either of them. One can dress like a prairie muffin while the other dresses like a fortie’s housewife. Neither style has been sanctioned by God as the only right method.
And you can choose a lifestyle that fits your methods… or you can let your methods become so dear to you that they are your lifestyle.
I don’t want my methods to be my defining characteristic. Conversely, I want my defining characteristics to demonstrate why I choose what methods I choose.