Columnists > Judgment Calls

People like us

The reason I lock the cooler door

Issue: "Untouchable?," April 7, 2001

There's a lock on the cooler door at work. It's one of four locks I secure each day before I close, and I would leave a warm bed and drive the mile and a half to the café if I realized I had overlooked one.

But this is a seminary. So why, pray tell, are there locks on seminary doors? Well, of course the answer is that seminary juice refrigerators and cash registers and kitchen doors are, sensibly, purchased from the world (remember the plundering of the Egyptians?); and the world has noticed-in its own groping in the dark-that there is something discomfiting in man, called "sin" by people of religion, and "the byproducts of bad socioeconomic policy" by the other ilk.

(As a comment on the latter, I would share with the reader that I have locked my car doors in areas where I would be surprised if one man in a thousand had not eaten for three days. Furthermore, though I cannot prove it, I would be passing surprised if the gentleman who filched the radio out of my van a couple of years back did it because he or his loved ones were suffering acute hunger pangs and needed to pawn my humble entertainment system for bread.)

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

But apart from the logistic simplicity of procuring coolers and other workaday artifacts from heathen sources (see also Ecclesiastes 2:26), why indeed are there locks on seminary doors, locks that I bother with? Why do I not dismiss them smugly as the quaint vestiges of accommodation to the "old man," just as the human appendix is said to be by evolutionists?

Well, let's see, there are locks because you never know when an outsider-not one of us-might drift in from Route 73. No locks exist on the entrances to the parking lots, after all, and any dissolute soul might be lured in by rumors of my hazelnut coffee.

This is an explanation I have entertained and found comfort in, though it is my anecdotal experience that, while our institution's existence looms large in the minds of many in Seoul and Nairobi, the campus is invisible to most folks here in town, who can tell you where any Blockbuster Video is when you ask for directions, but who have never heard of one of the most amazing works of God of the 20th century.

Or, to propose a slightly more uncomfortable hypothesis, the answer to our query about locks is that not all Christians are yet as sanctified as they someday will be, and that we have to take precautions (Romans 14) for the "baby" Christian among us who might have slipped past the admissions committee.

Ah, but brothers, I feel still vaguely off the mark, "warmer" but not yet "hot," as in the game of "blindman's bluff." Thus far in my science, I have kept the wolf from my own door, but I fear I cannot push it away any longer.

Quiz: What is the easiest thing in the world? Answer: To justify oneself. Ah, here is pay dirt! Breathes there a man, howsoever tenured in the doctrines of righteousness, who will not teeter-perchance to falling-at the sight of something which his heart's desire will construe as ambiguity? What can an unlocked cooler mean, after all, when one comes upon it, alone, in the wee hours of an all-nighter with Machen's Greek verb conjugations? Who will reason that the poor, daft café manager has forgotten to lock up, when the far more fortuitous possibility exists that she left the lock untethered on purpose, in an uncharacteristic gesture of magnanimity or simple pity toward her daytime customers?

Or, the unlocked cooler may say to one heart, "Ah, a new honor system! Drink now, pay later!" (Beware, however, the intention to do any good deed later, for later will have its own excuses.)

Another tack would be, "Hey, I pay a lot of tuition here, and what's one 50-cent Minute Maid orange juice in all that? Would not Christ Himself impugn such pettiness and legalism? Furthermore, when the Lord was hungry, did He and His disciples not eat of the grain fields on the Sabbath?"

And that, brothers, is why there is a lock on the cooler door-because of people who are wont to call gossip "sharing," people whose Sabbath convictions depend on what's going on this Sunday, and whose view of unlocked juice machines depends on how thirsty they are. In other words, because of people like me.

The test of a man's mettle is in the small things, not the great; what he does about returning a library book, not his views on greenhouse gases. May the Lord deliver you from such a temptation as an unlocked cooler. Or if you must face it, may He give you grace to stand up under it.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Power campaigns

    The GOP is fighting to maintain control of Congress…