A boy entered a grocery store and asked the grocer for some Tide. The merchant was puzzled and asked the kid why he wanted a box of detergent. The child replied he was going to wash his cat. The man said, “Young man, you shouldn’t wash a cat with this kind of soap.” The boy insisted that it would be okay. A few days later, the kid returned, and the grocer asked about the cat. “Oh, he died,” said the child. The merchant said, “Well, son, I tried to warn you not to wash your cat with detergent.” The little fella countered, “Oh, the soap wasn’t the problem, it was the spin cycle that got him!” When a product like detergent has been around a while and is then upgraded, the promotion is “new and improved,” often in bold print. I mention this because God many times works the same way. He will take something the world has already seen or done, and then produce His own “new and improved” version. Let me illustrate:
The Commandments – The idea of taking multiple laws and codifying them into a limited number of summary statements did not originate with Moses and the Ten Commandments. 400 years earlier, King Hammurabi of Babylon had already done the same. The difference? Hammurabi’s were just horizontal (man getting along with man), whereas Moses’ was vertical (man getting along with his Maker). God’s is the new and improved.
The Tabernacle – The idea of a great divine enclosed in a tent did not start with the Tabernacle. Already, in the ancient Egyptian Temple of Ramses, there was a tent hieroglyphic with two parts: a back one containing Ramses and a front one for those serving him as a god. The difference? Ramses’ was about worshiping a mere mortal man whereas Moses’ was about worshiping the eternal Sovereign. God’s is the new and improved.
The Saviour – The idea of a saviour rescuing man did not begin in Bethlehem. Just about every ancient culture believed in a supreme being who could only be appeased by a fiery sacrificial offering. Also, you find these many saviours in some – virgin born, crucified, resurrected form. The difference? Jesus wasn’t just a mythical figure of someone’s imagination, but a real historical fact incarnation. God’s is the new and improved.
The Gospels – The idea of a written account of a great man did not commence with the Gospels. Already in the Grecian world, there were similar biogs being done with- detailed opening genealogies, briefly-mentioned childhoods, narratives over chronologies, emphasis on the person’s life and death, etc. The difference? Never a man spoke like Jesus or never a man did the things that Jesus did. God’s is the new and improved.
I said all that to say this. The following philosophy was recently put forth by an Ontario pastor, “If something new originates outside of the fundamentalist church, it has no business being in the fundamentalist church.” May I respectfully say, I totally disagree. Just look at the examples above of God himself. Or, take Genesis 4:21. There we learn it was from Cain’s wicked line that musical instruments came. Does this mean there should be no piano or organ in the church? Of course not. What is played may need to be sanctified, but not forbidden.
The bottom line? A good philosophy for the church is the wise adage once given to me concerning fashion – “Don’t be the first to wear it, and don’t be the last.”