“Pragmatism” is a “practical approach to living. Pragmatists prefer problem solving and action.” Common sense, practical people tend to be pragmatists. Also survivors can be pragmatists, and perhaps many mothers. Solving problems quickly is what we do as moms, isn’t it? Fixing it, smoothing things over, directing traffic?
Peter is one of my favorite characters in the Bible, someone my heart can totally relate to. Lop off a man’s ear? Makes complete sense, problem solved. Deny Christ and live to see another day? Yes! Seems practical. “Why yes, I do know that Guy whose followers you are now rounding up for execution, I’m one of them,” does not seem like a common sense response to me. Completely irrational, not survival oriented, wouldn’t help the situation anyway.
I am laughing here, but it really took me years to trust in the Lord enough to even consider the possibility that Peter may have been wrong and why his pragmatism was a problem.
Atheists sometimes demand you answer the riddle, if God says lying is wrong and you have to lie to Nazi’s to save a hundred children, would you do it? And I’m more like, I don’t see any moral conundrum there, of course I’d lie! Heck, I’d hide some members of an invading army in the walls of my house if I thought it was the right thing to do. That’s actually in the Bible, so there ya go. Biblical womanhood in action.
My point being, I am clearly a pragmatist, in part because I am a total survivor, and alley cat even, but in part because I trust that God is not a bureaucrat ready to cancel culture you for using a pink pen instead of a number two pencil. He is also full of grace and mercy and already knows we have big imperfections.
I am a pragmatist. However, God is so not a pragmatist! Not at all. He is not a broken individual trying to make the best moral choices in difficult situations with limited vision, foresight, or wisdom. He is not adjusting according to the circumstances. He is all seeing, all knowing, and good and evil are not subjectively determined conditions. He has 20/20 vision and no character flaws, so there is no need or no cause that would lead God to be a pragmatist.
Too much pragmatism is actually a sin. Perhaps all of it is, but I say “too much” to distinguish from ordinary healthy common sense or thoughtful solutions. I know this, because I definitely suffer from the besetting sin of pragmatism. I see something broken or messy and the Holy Spirit is like, drop it, leave it there, don’t fix it. Totally unthinkable! I mean, a seriously unreasonable request! Laugh with me, but I had a genuine tug of war with the Lord, a struggle of will over some fishy crackers on the carpet the other day. I need to pick them up. You don’t understand, I can’t just sit here and let those crackers get ground in…
Leave them, He said.
See, it really isn’t about fishy crackers at all, nor about broken situations, people, things, all needing fixing, it’s about trusting in the Lord and following His will and direction. Sometimes it’s easy, like when I haven’t got a clue what to do and following the Lord is clearly the only option. But the smaller things that I think I can easily handle on my own? Ai yi yi.
And of course, if I had picked those crackers up, I would have deprived a kid of the opportunity to exercise some responsibility, deprived some parents of an opportunity to be parents, and so on and so forth. In fact, scooping up those crackers was far more about my own needs, desires, wants, fears, insecurity, OCD, etc, than it was about helping anyone else. I’m pretty sharp on the uptake too, at least when it comes to fishy crackers, so I could see all that truth after the fact, about two hours later.
I am so glad I was able to be obedient and just leave the crackers lay. It set some things into motion that my simple act would have disturbed and interrupted.
There are multiple times in life when doing the right thing is actually counter intuitive and against your own will, against your desires, against your instincts, against your feelings, beyond your comprehension and perception, even. That is part of the reason why we need the Holy Spirit and an active relationship with the Lord to help guide us. Like all relationships it takes time to build some trust, and you can always ask Him to confirm what you think you are hearing, where you think He is leading.
God is never going to crash your psyche or demand more of you then you can handle. Remember we’re talking about fishy crackers here, not invading a small country. Just saying, there is a time not to fix things, to not smooth it over, and to not direct traffic. Just let it go and let go.