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Jesus, Applecarts, and the Status Quo

Frank A. Clark is credited with the following observation: "Why not upset the apple cart? If you don't, the apples will rot anyway." Many of us loathe the idea of upsetting someone else's apple cart or of someone else upsetting our's. After all, upsetting the apple cart can be very upsetting - especially to the apples in the cart. That's why we like the status quo. Check any standard dictionary and you will find that status quo is defined as "the existing state of affairs." To upset the apple cart is to seek to change the existing state of affairs or the long-observed way of doing things that has led to that state of affairs. It doesn't matter to some people if the apples are rotting -just don't upset the apple cart. Leave things the way they are, thank you ma'am - even if the way things are is rotten to the core and the apples stink.

Jesus Christ didn't mind upsetting apple carts. Some see Jesus as such a meek and mild Mr. Nice Guy that He would never do or say anything to upset anyone. But this weak-kneed, milquetoast image of the Son of God is dead-wrong. Jesus was constantly in confiict with the religious status quo of His day. He didn't just upset the apple cart, He turned the thing upside down. And the apples became so upset that in the end they crucified Him. Mark 7:1-13 records one of those places where Jesus insisted the status quo had to go. The Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking "the tradition of the elders" after His disciples failed to practice the long-held tradition of giving their hands a ritual washing before eating. That's when Jesus turned over the apple cart. He accused the Pharisees of elevating their traditions to an equal and even superior authority to the word of God: "you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition" thus "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down" (7:9, 13). Note well that the apple cart Jesus turned over was full of man-made traditions and practices. The New Testament is clear we are to "stand fast and hold to the traditions" delivered to us through the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Nothing about Jesus Christ or the gospel needs to be changed (Hebrews 13:8; Galatians 1:6-9). Doctrinally, the status quo of the church of Christ needs to be left alone. But the existing state of affairs in the lives of many Christians and congregations could use some shaking up. If our cart/congregation is filled with apples like apathy and lukewarmness about the church, lack of concern for the lost, strife between members, etc. - Jesus would tell us to turn that cart upside down! Would Jesus like the apples in your cart/congregation? Or would He tell you the status quo needs to go?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ