Reprinted with permission from the Burns Park BEACON, a bulletin of the Burns Park church of Christ, North Little Rock, AR, October 14, 2001.
A CULTURE OF CONVENIENCE
By Steven Harper
The dictionary defines convenience as the quality of being convenient. (Don't you love it when dictionaries do that?) Convenient is defined as adding to one's comfort; easy to do, use, or get to; causing little trouble or work. I think I would just define it as anything that makes a task easier or, as it has come to be used, that which may be used when the situation warrants (such as a convenient excuse, convenient tool, etc.). Have you ever heard someone say, with an obvious attitude of doubt, "How convenient," after they have heard an excuse for why something was not done? Our society has become a culture of convenience.
We find a man in the Bible who placed a high priority on convenience, delaying obedience to the gospel until "a convenient time," but we have no record of him ever following through. (Felix, Acts 24:25.) It is obvious the "convenient time" for which Felix awaited was only an excuse for his delay, and obedience to the word of God would never fit in the life he had chosen. It seems that, to some, convenience is not even convenient enough.
In the parable of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:1-14), Jesus tells of the king who sent out his servants to call the ones who had been invited, only to have them refuse or make light of it. In a story that illustrated the refusal of the Jews to obey the gospel message, Jesus pointed to the fact that many would refuse obedience because it was not convenient. This reality was manifested in the fact that some of the religious rulers believed in Jesus but refused to confess Him lest they be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42, 43). To confess Jesus as the Christ would simply not be convenient for them in their situation. The ones they feared, the Pharisees, were no better in that they sought to kill the Lord because they feared many would follow Him and reject them, and the result would be the Romans coming in and taking away their position of authority and prominence (John 11:48). That would not be convenient.
And this use of ‘convenience’ as the motivation for what we say and do is not exclusive to those of New Testament times. As we stated earlier, our society has become a culture of convenience. We have drive-in movies (yes, there are still some around), drive-in restaurants, drive-through pharmacies, drive-through film processing (and instant photos if that isn't fast enough), instant coffee, instant cereals, cereal-in-a-box, instant messaging, and so on and so on. It seems that if we have to wait more than an instant anymore, we feel like we are being inconvenienced. If it's not convenient, we don't want it.
Unfortunately, this culture of convenience has crept into the church and many are now answering serious questions and responding to sin and error in the church not with Scripture and a "thus sayeth the Lord," but with whatever is convenient. Instead of dedicating themselves to the study of God's word, many are now relying on the words of other men when they are seeking answers to tough questions (some of whom have well-known erroneous views and who use arguments that do not agree with the word of God). Some are using commentaries written over a century ago, but many more are using popular writers of today because, as they reason, if so many people are buying it, it must be of some benefit. It is convenient. And when sin is discovered in the church, some are not answering with what the Lord has decreed, but are responding with an excessive amount of "mercy" and "patience" and are tolerating sin in the camp because it is not very convenient to have to speak to a sinning brother face to face and tell him he is wrong.
What's worse, there are many preachers who are employing convenience as the determining factor for their actions, even going so far as using Scripture to justify their lack of action. When a preacher associated with "others" preached one erroneous view on marriage, divorce, and remarriage a few years ago, many well-known men strongly condemned the error and rightly denounced those who said we should just apply Romans 14 when we disagree — even on matters that are clearly sinful. But, when one of the preachers with whom they were associated began preaching a different (but still erroneous) teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, all of a sudden they began proclaiming that we should put this "in the category of Romans 14" and "not divide over it." Now, those who once strongly condemned what might be called "discipline of convenience" are now employing the same tactics. How convenient.
I would like to think otherwise, but I cannot help but believe the ones who are now doing this do not realize they are, in effect, professing to know God, but denying Him by their actions (Titus 1:16). Whenever we proclaim to be a friend of the Lord, yet refuse to implement His word when the errant one is a prominent friend of ours, we have, in effect, denied the Lord. Jesus plainly told us that when we put our friendships and family relationships before the truth of God's word, we are not worthy of Him and cannot be His disciple (Matt. 10:37, Luke 14:26). For anyone who may be putting the obvious and plain truths of God's will aside for fear of friendships ending or rejection by their cohorts, I plead with you to not put these earthly relationships above the more important relationship with your Lord. It may be convenient to not discuss touchy issues and it may be more convenient to "agree to disagree," but the truth will not be proclaimed and you will be responsible for those souls who are led to believe it doesn't matter what one thinks, even when it is called ‘sin’ by God.
Convenience is okay for grocery stores, paying bills, and maybe even making coffee, but it should not be the deciding factor in our life if we sincerely strive to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. It was not convenient for Jesus to leave heaven behind and come to earth and live as a man. It was not convenient for Him to suffer the humiliation, scourging, and mocking of His unjust trial. It was not convenient for Him to be nailed to the cross and hang for several, tortuous hours. It was not convenient, but it had to be done, and He did it. As His disciples, we are admonished to present ourselves as living sacrifices, following His pattern (Rom. 12:1, 2). It may not be convenient, but it is necessary.