The Baptist Beacon
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
by Elder Lynn Stapleton
Colonel Robert Ingersol was a Union officer defeated at the battle of Parker's Crossroads during the Civil War. His claim to fame (or infamy) however, is that he was a notable humanist who openly opposed Christianity and engaged in public debates with the ministers of his day. On one occasion while he was vigorously defending his views, it is said that an old gentleman walked up to the stage with him and stood there peeling an orange. When Ingersol asked what he was doing, the old man responded by asking him if the orange was sweet. "Fool!" shouted Ingersol, "How can I know if the orange is sweet without tasting it?" The old man calmly asked, "How then can you know anything about Christ without first tasting Him?"
Whether this event actually happened is uncertain. However, the story illustrates a simple truth. Psalm 34:8 says: "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him." Until a person experiences Christ through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit he or she cannot know His goodness. Similarly, until a person experiences the vast array of God's methods how can he or she know if they are good or bad?
Most people, by the time they reach an accountable age can readily discern between good and bad. God gave man his nature and man instinctively knows not to lie, steal, or kill. It is also in his nature to revere and worship a god. But man needs help to know how to worship the right God in the right way. Even those who worship the one true God need instructions from the Word of God to worship Him in the right way.
Some people have years of religious instructions and have developed deep convictions about their
methods of worship. Most do not take to change without great anxiety and reservation. True Christians
worship God in a way that they sincerely believe is "in spirit and in truth" rejecting all forms of religious heresy and what is perceived as a mere "form of godliness." This is GOOD!
Some religious customs are clearly BAD. For example Easy believism, open communion, and preaching for profit are things we reject as BAD, and we should.
Certainly when people's minds are closed to anything that is different from what they are accustomed to, this is the UGLY side of religion.
Admittedly some practices are difficult to recognize as good or bad. But to refuse any new thing simply because it is new or different is the UGLY side of religion. Imagine if a new song were never sung, new illustrations were never used in preaching, or that Baptists had never tried Sunday School or revival meetings. Many people (myself included) would perhaps be lost today if these new ideas had been rejected.
Adoniram Judson was the first foreign missionary from America. His efforts to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in Burma were at first unsuccessful. He carefully observed how the Burmese religious teachers set up pavilions in the marketplace and taught the people. He did likewise and day after day continued his preaching but no one stopped to listen. Then it occurred to him that the Burmese teachers did not stand behind a pulpit as he did; they sat on a mat on the ground. When Judson tried this method, people stopped and listened.
The UGLY side of religion shuts out anything new or different. It isolates us from the GOOD fellowship with others and isolates them from the GOOD that is in us. Like Robert Ingersol, how can we know something is good unless we try it? Like Adoniram Judson, let us be open minded enough to try new methods. Hold on to everything that is GOOD, refuse all that is BAD, and avoid the UGLY, being careful not to reject new ideas because they are different. O taste and see that the Lord is good.