It started, I suppose, with coleslaw. Why that particular food item was on my mind as Dana and I drove home from revival, I do not really know, but it was. It was just a couple of months ago, and I had just finished preaching in Reidsville, North Carolina. We had an hour and a half drive ahead of us, and I was mulling over the various styles and consistencies of this decidedly Southern staple.
Yes, I know that it originated in the Netherlands and came from the Dutch word koosla, meaning cabbage salad. That really does not change anything; no one does it quite like the South, so I hereby cordially proclaim us the authorities to be looked to on the subject.
Anyway, I was thinking about coleslaw, and it dawned on me that I have pretty strong opinions on the subject. On a whim, I had Dana bring Facebook up on her phone and start a live video. I told those joining in that we were going to have an impromptu session of "Random Opinions With Pastor Bo Wagner."
I began with my opinions on coleslaw, which are as follows. One, coleslaw should be green, not red. No offense to all of you barbecue coleslaw lovers out there, but old-fashioned green coleslaw is the gold standard. Two, coleslaw should not taste like sugar. It should mostly taste like cabbage and mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Three, coleslaw should be adult-size pieces of cabbage; it should never, ever be ground up to the consistency of baby food. Why in the world people want their coleslaw to look like something that would come out of a Gerber bottle has always been beyond me.
Within seconds, the video was blowing up with comments, most (clearly showing their great wisdom) agreeing with me, but quite a few for some reason taking the side of "coleslaw should have the consistency of and even sort of taste like applesauce" position.
From there, the conversation turned to truck beds. It is my opinion that anyone who has a 5-foot, 4-inch truck bed or shorter should probably go ahead and buy a Prius instead. Truck beds are designed to haul things, and Granny Clampett could not have even fit her rocking chair onto the back of these toy-size short truck beds, let alone any of her pots, pans and vittles for Jethro.
Fast food came next. I told our viewers that Bojangles is infinitely better than KFC. No offense, Colonel Sanders, but the Cajun Filet Biscuit cannot be topped.
And then came the topic of self-checkout lines at places like Walmart. Yes, I know it is a crass, money-saving ploy by Big-Box-Small-Service Inc. I don't care. I love them. When a cashier checks me out, I am outwardly calm but inwardly dying a little listening to "beep ... beep ... beep ................... beep."
When I use self-checkout, heads pop up like prairie dogs all over the store at the "BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP" of me slinging things across the scanner. I can make one of those things sound like the video game Galaga and have a full buggy checked out faster than the bored door watcher can say, "May I see your receipt?" Others, though, hate them. They view themselves as very short-term indentured servants without any of the employee benefits.
Yes, there is actually a point to all of this. Every one of us has opinions, lots of them. And in their proper place, they provide the very spice of life, the variety that keeps our world from being a mundane, dreary, regimented existence. Mind you, I am not saying that opinion can ever supersede Scripture; it cannot. Sin is always wrong no matter our opinion, and Scripture, rightly divided and accurately applied, is to be the believer's absolute rule of life. But within the bounds that God has set for us, homes and churches and everyone else should rejoice in the liberty to be themselves.
Abraham lived in tents in the field; David lived in a palace. Peter walked on the water; the other disciples stayed in the boat. Martha rushed out to see Jesus; Mary waited quietly in the house. Paul wrote at least 13 books of the New Testament; John the Baptist never wrote anything that we know of. Isaiah was eloquent and regal; Jeremiah was raw and emotional. Esther wore a crown; Ruth worked the fields.
Understanding the beauty and value of individuality is often harder than we want to admit. But doing so provides some real treasures in life. We have three children who are now young adults. One of the greatest compliments we ever received in our raising of them was from the school principal, who said, "You never forced them into a mold; you let them be themselves." It makes for a fun family, this life with the countrified laborer/business owner son, brainiac introverted teacher daughter and lightning-in-a-bottle social butterfly nurse daughter.
I preach in churches where people run the aisles and wave handkerchiefs, shouting at the top of their lungs as they do. I also preach in churches where no one makes a sound the entire service, but everyone carefully absorbs every word I say. Mine is somewhere in between those two.
God made a world of amazing variety. But there will always be a battle within us to make everyone want to conform, not just to Scripture but even to our opinions. And if we put enough pressure on people or churches or friends or anyone else, we can usually get people to conform whether they want to or not. But in so doing, we not only rob their joy, we also pull all of the color out of the canvas of life, leaving just a grayscale diagram of misery in which to exist.
So eat your coleslaw however you like, even you uncultured Philistines who puree it down to a veritable cabbage pudding.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at email@example.com.