Amy and I enjoy the show “How I Met Your Mother”. (For those not familiar with the show, it’s a sort of “Friends” for millennials). One of the main characters is an extreme philanderer named Barney. Barney is prone to outlandish statements and proclamations of ridiculous rules that explain the world from his perspective. One of his favorite sayings is “new is always better.” (I try to invoke this rule with my wife when I get tempted to buy some new piece of technology…it doesn’t really work).
A few weeks ago someone was telling me about a situation he was dealing with. Another someone had a brand new “theological” insight regarding a controversial issue within the church.
As I was listening my intellectual side was tracking with the argument…even though it was new, it kind of made sense, and I could follow the logic (to a degree) that had led to the conclusion.
But something didn’t sit well with me.
I couldn’t figure it out for a while, and I felt like the only response I had was “well that’s wrong,” or “we don’t do it that way.” The issue came up again recently in a conversation about the passage in Luke on new and old wine skins.
Admittedly, I gravitate towards the new most of the time. I like new ideas, new gadgets, new books, new music, etc.
But the rhetoric that goes along with new (i.e. progressive) ideas is often one of convenience. As in: how convenient that you found this new idea that justifies your world view, that’s awesome!
But convenience is never the path that Jesus took, and that is ultimately what didn’t sit right with me as I listened to my friend. The new idea was cool and interesting and definitely worth a serious conversation.
But it lacked sacrifice. There was no laying down of lives or taking up of crosses. Stories of convenience lack any kind of power. Stories of sacrifice stir the soul and inspire action.
It wasn’t even about whether the issue at hand was right or wrong (at least for me)…the serious point that was being missed was the exchange of sacrifice for convenience.
There is a part of me that wants to declare “new is always better,” but I am learning to weigh the “new” with a lens (a hermeneutic) of sacrifice and cross bearing. Of course, on this point, I can always be accused of spiritual masochism or a joyless theology, so I will acknowledge that danger. But I will always trust “new” ideas that have passed through the crucible of suffering and sacrifice and life-laid-down-experience over a theology of convenience.