by Barry Newton
Posters depicting a school of fish swimming downstream while one lonely fish swims against the descending torrent adorn the halls of my son’s middle school. These placards display a printed message as part of a values campaign. A series of posters decorate the school proclaiming the message in two forms: “What is right is not always popular” and “What is popular is not always right.”
Being aware of the critical importance for students to understand that decisions must be based upon a standard other than what everyone else is doing, the school administration has entered the fray of attempting to shape beliefs and values. They desire to instill the character of choosing what is right regardless of its popularity.
We parents stand up and applaud such a message. But how closely are we listening? Are we tempted in some settings to go with the easy flow of popular pragmatics, rather than adhere to the higher path of truth?
Motivated with the biblical mandate to evangelize, but armed with a pseudo-grace empowering a convenient, tamed and human-driven worship, the temptation to attract numbers by pandering to the desires of the unchurched can become a powerful force. Are these scribbled sentiments erupting from a stodgy curmudgeon who confuses a particular set of cultural religious traditions as being truth? Hardly! Rather, two positive principles should propel God’s people forward.
The first involves recognizing that priorities shape one’s path and upon which value God places the greater priority. There can never be two masters, only one.
Jesus never chose to pursue numbers at the cost of truth. The Son of God stood and watched as thousands walked away, rather than do whatever it might take to keep the crowds./1 He fished for those who would follow truth.
The second principle entails hotly pursuing God’s mission in God’s way. Authentic discipleship is cross-based./2 Christians die to themselves that they might be conformed to God’s will. Genuine discipleship does not naively assume God is pleased with our pursuit of a narcissistic religious experience claiming God as the object of worship.
The fish poster is right. The question is, “Are we listening?”
1/ John 6:2,10,24-25,60,66-67
2/ 2 Corinthians 5:15; Luke 9:23
by Barry Newton