I attended an undergraduate school where the President of the college is well known for saying, “Taking the High Road is choosing between the good and the best, and choosing the best!”Why is this on my mind?
I was conversing with a friend, who also graduated from this school, concerning going to the movie theater. He said that if a group from work were going to go watch a movie that he would not attend. Now he is not against watching movies, he rents them and watches them at home. His issue was with the theater. I let him know that I thought he was just as free to not attend the movie as I was to attend, and I wasn’t attempting to argue over it; but I wanted to make sure that his standard wasn’t set on a misconception of Scripture. I did this because it has been my experience that the go-to verse for Christians who have instituted such rules is “abstain from all appearance of evil”. (I Thess 5:22) I gave him a short exegesis of the verse to look at, as this verse is often pulled out of context, advising him that it was great to have a standard, but that he would not be violating any particular rule of God if he were to attend the group function (assuming the movie was one that was okay to watch).
His response to me was twofold: 1. most conservatives hold the same standard he does, and 2. he is just taking the high road in the matter.
Now the first defense is faulty as it relies on tradition for it’s foundation as opposed to God’s Word. Truth be told, when it comes to the things of God, there is not necessarily strength in numbers, for the majority could be wrong – just look at Elijah and the remnant of people who hadn’t bowed to Baal verses the rest of Israel including the ruling monarchs; or observe Jesus and His 12 disciples verses the majority of the nation of Israel. Psalm 118:8 tells us it is better to take refuge in the LORD than to place our trust in man. So it is when setting our standards or right and wrong, or in seeking to give an answer as to why we do or do not do a thing. But the subject of this post isn’t the traditionalism, rather the second part – the high road.
This has been given to me as an answer for any standard that cannot find biblical warrant, yet the defender wants to make it known that they are taking the moral high ground in the situation and should not be questioned. It is my contention that “taking the High Road” is too subjective and also implies that God’s road isn’t high enough. Some of you, I’m sure, are shaking your heads; so please hear me out before you write me off.
The phrase, “Take the High Road” turns every situation at hand into a moral issue, yet the standard is nothing more than the personal perspective of the one wielding the statement. For example, and I’ll stick with my real-life situation of going to see a movie, my friend imagines himself to be taking the high road in avoiding the theater (although there is absolutely no biblical reason to label it as sinful). But one could argue that the high road is actually attending a decent movie with the group of lost coworkers as one develops a relationship with them and evangelizes them. This is actually more Christlike than avoiding the theater, even Paul said he would become all things to all men so that he might, by all means, save some (and if you balk at that with something like “Paul didn’t mean he would sin to evangelize!” then you’ve just proved my point that “the high road” is really one setting up their own opinions as law). See, the minute one bases his standards on a “high road” as opposed to God’s law, then he now has a subjective standard that makes him the sole determiner of right and wrong. These standards end up going beyond personal, and are taught as things Christians most definitely should or should not do – and in comes legalism.
Now, it’s fine if my friend doesn’t want to attend theaters as he feels he is sinning against The LORD in his own heart. That would be along the same lines as Paul’s example of the strong Christian eating meat and the weaker Christian not. Paul doesn’t say the vegetarian Christian is taking the high road; he doesn’t commend him, rather calls the man weak. Yet, he doesn’t say the weak Christian has to eat meat, but that the weak is to refrain from it as long as his conscience will not permit him to do it. What has happened, is that weak Christians are attempting to use “the High Road” as an attempt to escape self examination and still enforce their weakness on their brothers. I don’t say this in disdain for my brother who won’t go watch a movie, again, he is just as free to not go as I am to go; yet we are also to encourage each one to grow in grace, which is what I was attempting to do. We are not told in Scripture to never approach the weaker brother concerning his weak area – remember the weak Christian read Paul’s words saying eating meat was okay, just like the strong Christian did. Paul didn’t not tell people they could really eat meat, he told them (the weak and strong alike) that it was really okay.
Aside from “The High Road” being immensely subjective, it’s also demeaning to the LORD. It assumes there is a higher road than that which is laid out in God’s Word. It essentially says, “Since there is no law of God concerning this matter, I have determined to set up my own law and call it the high road. All those who do not act as I do are compromising by taking the low road.” The reality of the matter is that there is Christian liberty and we must act with a heart desiring to please God. Those Christians who go to the movies are not necessarily misrepresenting God to their lost friends, and those Christians who abstain are not necessarily accurately representing God.
So, summary time! It’s okay to say, “I know there is no Scriptural mandate to do, or not do, an action; but in my heart, I cannot engage in it in good conscience toward God.” This is a far more biblically accurate response than, “I’m taking the High Road!”; and far less Pharisaical.