In college, one of my jobs was working at the K&W Cafeteria in Chapel Hill. The procedure at the K&W and other similar restaurants is pretty much the same as the school lunchroom many of you remember. You get your tray, then you go down the line getting whatever food was on the menu. Unlike the school lunchroom, at a cafeteria-style restaurant you get to pick and choose what you want, meaning you don’t have to get a spoonful of diced carrots and peas!
For many in the church, Christianity has morphed into something resembling the cafeteria line. We want to fill our theological tray with things that appeal to us. The harder teachings of Scripture, we pass by with a nod much as we do to the mystery meat in a pool of coagulated gravy. We load up on God’s love, pile on the mercy, and top it off with a generous helping of everybody getting angel wings… and everyone lived happily ever after.
One of our Founding Fathers was Thomas Jefferson. He is remembered for many things, but perhaps he is most well-known as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was a learned man, and we can find much about his life that is worthy of celebration.
In 1820, Jefferson published a book entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. This was not an original work on his part. He pieced it together by cutting out the teachings of Jesus from the gospels and glueing them onto pages which were bound in his little book. All the miracles were removed, including the resurrection. The teachings that remained were true, but it was missing anything that was supernatural. Jesus is presented as a wise teacher, but His divinity was removed.
Most of us would not be so bold as to physically edit our Bibles with scissors and glue, but we may be guilty of trimming the Bible’s teachings in how we receive its truth and apply it to our lives. Often we are performing our edits when we read and passage and respond, “Well, what this passage means to me is…”
This cafeteria approach feels good in the moment – we take what we want from God’s Word and leave the rest – but it comes at a cost. For Jefferson, he removed the divinity of Jesus seemingly preferring to rely only on his moral teachings. He both robbed Jesus of His majesty and robbed Himself of the wonder that God would physically come to us, die for us, and rise again in victory! We’d do well to put away our X-acto knives and Elmer’s glue and allow God to speak for Himself about Himself to us.
One thing about the cafeteria – Once you loaded up your tray and pushed it to the end of the line, there was someone waiting there at a cash register. That’s right; it was time to pay up. There is a price to pay for selectively taking of God what we want and leaving the rest behind. That price can be awfully high. It can cost you joy, peace, and hope. Even more, it can cost you an eternity in heaven.
Perhaps an even higher cost is that it can keep your children and grandchildren from knowing God and His truth. If you can pick and choose, why should they not do the same?
Think deeply. Pray fervently. Choose wisely.