"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins."
A while back there was a Zits cartoon that hit a little too close to home. Jeremy asks his dad if he has a telephone book. When his dad produces it, Jeremy takes a picture with his phone. In the last frame, he is sharing the picture with his friend Pierce. Pierce comments, I bet he still uses maps.
At our recent Leadership Board retreat, we heard an excellent presentation on the use of social media. Social media is the current way that many people connect and communicate with one another. It is exciting, dynamic and a little scary for those of us who still use the telephone book and “real” maps. Social media is definitely a new set of wineskins.
In Mark 2, Jesus challenges the stiff, legalistic approach to faith of the Pharisees. Jesus confronted their strict application of the law. Specifically he confronted fasting and what is lawful to do on the Sabbath. At the heart of what he was saying was the reality that the Pharisees had made the rules more important than the intent of the rules. Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27
On the other side of the coin, Jesus made it clear that He held the Law in high esteem. His purpose was not to set aside the Law, but to perfect it. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17
Herein lies the dilemma that we face today. The truth of the Gospel is unchanging. The methods by which we communicate the Gospel are constantly changing. Our job is to keep these two things in proper perspective. Some people, like the Pharisees, put their focus on keeping the Gospel pure. To do this, they enshrine the Gospel in old forms that do not communicate well today. Others put their focus on being relevant to today’s culture. They jettison all older forms of worship and communicating the Gospel in favor of what is new and trendy. In their effort to be relevant, they massage the Gospel to be more palatable to today’s audience.
Jesus masterfully blended these two elements. He preserved the essence of the old, while introducing the vitality of the new. The prime example of this is what He did on Maundy Thursday, as He led his disciples in the traditional Passover meal, while redefining its elements for the new reality of His death and resurrection.
As we move into the future, we need to seek to balance the old and the new to accomplish Christ’s purposes. We must cut the anchor ropes to the past that hold us back, yet we should never abandon the wealth of wisdom and knowledge from the past. We should embrace new ways of connecting and communicating, without leaving some of our people, in the dust, on the side of the road.
When Jesus interacted with people, He met them where they were at. Then He gently guided them forward. He never demanded that they catch up to Him or be left behind.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.