The Baby with the Bathwater

No, not my little Andrew.  By God’s grace he’s not going anywhere, certainly not “out” with the bathwater.  The expression, which I think we’re probably all familiar with, refers to a reaction against something perceived to be unfavourable, but which is so extreme as to be, itself, unfavourable.  You can probably think of some examples from your own experience, but here’s the one that came up yesterday at the ministerial association’s quiet day retreat.

There are times when branches of the Christian Church throw out the baby with the bathwater.  In reaction to a perceived religiosity in certain traditions, other traditions react by distancing themselves from the practices of these.  Case-and-point: the Anglican Church, along with many mainline protestant denominations and the older Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions, includes the Lord’s Prayer (or, the “Our Father”) in the Sunday morning worship service.  Admittedly, there are some places where this inclusion can become stale and uninspired.  We know the prayer from memory, don’t consider what the words we’re saying mean, and don’t think about any implications that they may have for our lives/lifestyle.  That can happen.

In some places, a reaction to this possibility has moved Christians to exclude the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in corporate worship.  Jesus didn’t mean for us to pray those words exactly, anyways – He meant for us to pray in a similar manner to, and with the same sentiments and intentions as, that prayer.  Ironically, many groups that would support such a view do emphasize Bible memorization, which would require their members to know the exact words of that prayer – not just its sentiments.

But while we may accuse (as if Christians “accusing” other Christians is ever the right course of action!) these groups of throwing out the baby, not just the bathwater, a valid point is made.  If we’re just saying words, and if those words don’t cut to our hearts and don’t mean anything for the direction of our lives, then we might as well not say them.  Cindy and I sometimes exercise with Tony Horton (the P90X guy), and he has a saying in his videos when particular exercises are repeated, to the effect of: if last time you were just going through the motions, if you were doggin’ it, then pick it up this time!

Let me say the same, today.  If the familiarity of the Sunday liturgy has moved you to just go through the motions, and if last time you were doggin’ it, then you need to pick it up this next time!  Rather than not saying the words that could be so full of life and transformation (due to not having meant them last time), re-imbue them with the meaning that they should have had all along!  Mean what you say; don’t just go through the motions!

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