Pragmatism is a way of looking at the world that assesses the truth and the utility of an idea in terms of measurable and observable success. Without question, Americans are pragmatic, results-oriented people. We like things that “work” and “produce results.” We like diets and products that “work.” We like business plans and educational strategies that produce results. We tend to favor whatever results in measurable and observable success.
Tragically, the pragmatism of the United States has filtered into the thinking of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than starting with the question, “Will this honor God?” too many churches begin with the question, “Will this work, and will this produce results?” There are grave consequences to this way of thinking. Immediately, God becomes just a means to a greater end. Invariably, church members begin to see themselves as consumers of a religious product, and the merits of that product are, not surprisingly, judged through the lens of pragmatism.
Examples of church members thinking like consumers include the following: parents who bring their children to church simply to try and keep their kids out of trouble, couples who attend church only in the hopes that their marriage will improve, people who make appearances at church for the social and business contacts, and individuals who come to church to bargain with God in the hope that God will fix their health problems, legal problems, and financial problems. In each of these scenarios, people are participating in church activities and hoping that Christianity will “work” for them. That is, they are looking for Jesus to “produce results” in their lives.
In contrast to this pragmatic, consumeristic approach to religion, listen to the words of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:3-9.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith —more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Peter says believers have born again to an inheritance that is being kept in heaven. Peter says that believers are waiting for the full and final revelation of our salvation. Peter says that believers should expect to face various trials in this world, and these trials are intended to test the genuineness of their faith. Peter says believers will obtain the outcome of their faith at the return of Christ, and that outcome is the salvation of their souls.
A saving relationship with Jesus will not fix all of your problems, nor will it prevent suffering in your life. However, a saving relationship with Jesus will have a positive impact on many aspects of your life. Just remember, these positive changes are not the ultimate end of the Christian faith. Our highest aim is a relationship with the one, true God and the salvation of our souls.