I have been doing a Parks and Rec Rewatch with my daughters, and it has been a lot of fun. In one of the episodes, the main character, Leslie Knope, goes on the local public radio station to promote her book. The host, played by one of the greatest voice actors of all time, Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson, and about half of the rest of the characters on the Simpsons) asks, “Leslie, could one say that a book is nothing more than a painting of words, which are the notes on the tapestry of the greatest film ever sculpted?” To which Leslie replies, “One could say that, but SHOULD one?” It’s one of those lines that I re-laugh at every time the scene starts.
At its core, though, is the difference between “could” and “should.” Paul even talks about this in his letters when people are asking him if they must keep kosher now that they follow Christ. One could do that, but should one? And further, Paul says, many things are lawful, but are they good? This is a long-running human problem in our world, and one I think about with the church and with my family all the time. There are a lot of things we could do, but should we? We could live in an attitude of scarcity, where we hold on tightly to what we have because we are afraid, we will lose it, but should we? We could do nothing in our community or in our mission because it takes time, effort, and money, but should we?
In our world, “coulds” have become more and more prevalent. In many good ways, people have access to more than ever before. As I write this, I’m waiting on my daughters to finish an appointment, and one of them is on their phone with access to more information than for most of human history. In fact, I could ask ChatGPT to write this weekly for me, but should we? I believe the communion of saints that gather in church, from our small groups to our worship services helps us navigate the “coulds” to find our “shoulds.”