Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos

As I was pumping gas today I was whistling a happy little song. The woman filling the Toyota Sienna on the other side of the pump caught my eye and said, "I like your song".
I said, "It's a good song. Where do you go to church?"
"In Morgan Hill. Beth-El Baptist."
"Oh, good church."
"Where do you go", she asked, her smile growing.
"I'm eastern Orthodox."
There was a slightly confused look on her face as she asked, "Are there many Orthodox churches in the Bay area?"
"A surprising number. Several right here in San Jose."
"like Armenian Orthodox?", she asked as she hung her nozzle back on the pump.
I didn't want to get into a thousand years of history, and since the theologians say it was really a semantic difference I said, "Yeah. Like the Armenian Orthodox."
"The song...?", still with a friendly but now confused expression on her face.
"It's a true song".
Confusion disappeared and her smile spread from ear to ear. "Bye." she said.
"Bye. God bless you." I said.

The song I was whistling was "Trust and Obey" by John Sammis (1887)

1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
* Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.
4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Now here is my question, what are good Reformation Christians doing singing a song that says obedience is a requirement? They're supposed to be all about Sola Fide, right? The answer, I think, is that most Protestants are not as radical as the 16th century Reformers. Some are, but not most. Most are like the woman I met at the gas station. They know that the same Paul who said we are saved by faith also said fornicators and gossips have no place in the Kingdom of Heaven. So how is it explained? How do these children of the Reformation wind up singing songs like Trust and Obey, which to me sounds a lot like faith plus works? Jesus said "ask and you'll receive". Heresy can not last forever as long as people pray for truth. They have most of the Bible and they have the will of God on their side, the will that no one perish. The people of Beth-El Baptist Church in Morgan Hill are now on my prayer list.

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