A Bangladeshi once described one of his countrymen as "having his feet in two boats." With this word picture he was showing the effect of trying to juggle two divergent opinions by trying to serve two masters at the same time (Matt. 6:24) and the likelihood of capsizing. This same picture could be applied to a person or a group of them who try to maintain an image of Biblical orthodoxy and who is thinking with a secular mindset at the same time. Joshua, Elijah, Jesus and James all encountered such thinking and addressed it as such. Maybe their wisdom might be helpful to the 2016 Synod.
Near to the end of his career, Joshua [=God saves] conducted a short review of the history of the Israelites, and he recounted how YHWH had been the ever faithful God who had delivered on all of his promises. Then Joshua gave the people a choice of serving either YHWH or the local gods. The local ones were very tantalizing as typically they appealed to unbridled passion, whereas YHWH had moral laws for the good of all the people, whether rich or poor, strong or weak, slave or free. Joshua showed by example that he would make a clear cut choice as he said with a touch of bitter irony,
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-15)
The people responded just like Joshua and said that they were committed to following YHWH whole-heartedly (v. 16), but Judges 6:10 tells us that didn't last for long.
In response to a meeting at Mount Carmel facilitated by King Ahab, the prophet Elijah [=God is the LORD/YHWH] addressed the people of Israel gathered there. This was a people who tried to straddle the worship of Baal with its fertility rituals along with the worship of YHWH.
His words are recorded in sacred Scripture as,
“How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (I Kings 18:21).
The response of the people to this ultimatum was silence. Elijah had hit a nerve. The Israelites were playing a game called "a little spiritual adultery can't be all bad" and Elijah called it for what it was. However, when YHWH showed up in power they fell on their faces and said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God." (I Kings 18:39)
Just after recounting the words of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6, where the disciples are challenged to trust their Father in heaven for their "daily bread" Jesus [=He will save his people from their sins] addresses some issues of the heart, including trying to straddle two loves.
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).
Thereafter Jesus tells his disciples to look around at how the Heavenly Father takes care of birds, lilies and even his children.
In words that appeal to be combination of those of Joshua, Elijah and Jesus, James the brother of Jesus address "the Twelve Tribes in the Dispersion"--short for the church as it was found anywhere in his day.
First of all he tackles the issue of trust in a manner like Jesus and states,
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1: 5-8)
In a word, James says that this person has his "feet in two boats" and so is unstable, due to an incipient unbelief in God's ability and willingness to supply wisdom.
This of course was the perpetual sin of Israel and this is what caused Israel to "two-time" with the gods of the nations all around them.
By contrast James describes God the Father as someone who is anything but double-minded, but is the "Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17). It is this Father who provides a wisdom that is pure and peaceable in contrast to an earthly wisdom which he describes as "unspiritual and demonic" (James 3:15).
James continues his practical exhortations and in the fourth chapter he uses the imagery of the spiritual adultery that was used in the Old Testament, and which Joshua and Elijah alluded to. He also alludes to the impossibility of serving of two masters, as Jesus suggested,
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Then he goes on to speak of God's grace available to help and deals out some rather strong medicine to the recipients of his letter, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
The Bangladeshi used a local picture of a person trying to get across one of their abundant streams or rives by putting one foot in one boat, and the other in another boat. In short this was a recipe for disaster. Joshua, Elijah, Jesus and James all describe people who are thinking that somehow YHWH or the Heavenly Father will simply not come through and so a "little bit of spiritual adultery" either with other gods, money, or friendship with the world would solve the problem. Yet each and every one of them addresses the area of double-mindedness with a stinging rebuke as invariably as Jesus said to the church of Laodicea, that this manner of thinking would produce a luke-warm church, neither hot nor cold, and you know the rest.... (Revelation 3)
Questions to think about:
1. If any or all of the four men showed up at the door of your or my house, what would they say?
2. If any or all of the four men showed up at the door of your or my church, what might they say?
3. As the CRCNA deliberates matters of how it relates to the local culture and its local context, how might it avoid "limping between two opinions," "serving two masters" and having "demonic and unspiritual" wisdom while having an unhealthy friendship with the world?
4. Positively, what would the CRCNA have to do to demonstrate concretely and clearly that it serves One Master; does not have an unhealthy friendship with the world; does not limp between two opinions and lets YHWH be its God, and does not look longingly at the practices of the nations all around it (as per Joshua)?