Seems that Grace vs. Law, Legalism and Judgementalism, formula-based belief systems vs. gospel-based belief systems . . . they are regretfully always there to be debated and discussed.
Two very un-related posts on Adventures in Mercy and White Washed Feminist (don’t let that “f” word scare you . . . the site is not feminist in the stereotypical sense) reminded me of a post I wrote nearly two years ago on a mom’s forum. It was in response to a thread of discussion about being responsible for how our kids “turn out”, modest dress (or lack thereof) in churches today, body piercings, tattoos, and just what many thought acceptable behavior (though it was based more in appearance than in character) should be from believers in general.
The connection between the following and the current blogs’ posts mentioned above? Well, the Adventures in Mercy post was titled, “Those Who Leave Christ and My Own Story (Of Why I Could Not)”. Molly’s heartfelt post (wonderfully transparent, as usual) is an account of a key part of her journey thus far, honestly relaying her doubts and questions along the way, about how some of those she knew did leave the faith, and why she did not. It brought to mind the different elements that go into anyone’s journey of faith . . . how a person is put together in their mind and heart by their Creator, their free will, the external influences that come into play . . .
The connection with Anne’s post, “Dear Lady Lydia”at WWF, was more me pondering along the lines of how certain, shall we say, more “rigid” belief systems tend to respond to exposed belly-buttons and nose rings. Not that Anne’s post really addressed that kind of thing. Her post was about much more serious stuff than body piercings and too-short skirts. But as I read Lady Lydia’s post, “What if This and What if That”, (linked to at “Dear Lady Lydia”) I just wondered how Lady Lydia would respond to a young tatooed, purple-haired believer that might somehow wander into her church. As I pondered such a scene, I was reminded of some of the things I had seen posted at the mom’s forum that were, well, pretty rigid, too. And two years ago, I was prompted to write the following . . .
I’ve been reading all of the recent posts on the subjects of legalism and judgementalism with great interest. For us as the Church, I believe these issues to be extremely important. So many precious souls who are drawn into the Church are discouraged in their spirits (many to the point of leaving their faith) by well-meaning Christians who view holiness as a set of rules or a formula to be followed (law). The principle of worshiping in Spirit and in Truth gets reduced to things being done “a certain way” or worse yet, “not a certain way”.
Just think about the beauty of the way GOD has set things about. One can go into ANY culture, in ANY language, ANYWHERE, and communicate the LOVE of God through Jesus Christ. Ladies, I’m not talking just about the primitive cultures of the deep dark jungles, but also of the cultures in all of civilization as well. INCLUDING the girls and guys with their belly-buttons showing or with body piercings and tattoos!
I’m trying to condense my thoughts to really say what I want to say here. After salvation through grace has been received, it seems that many in the Church “turn off” the GRACE! These sweet little baby Christians (OK, so lots of times they’re big and un-cuddly and it’s hard to picture them this way . . . work with me on this one) are expected to behave with maturity they have NOT YET GROWN INTO.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
I think when we read the above passage, we tend to apply it personally, thinking how glad “we’re not there” and skip over what Paul is saying. Do we forget that new believers struggle immensely as they transition from being in the world without Christ to a new reality of being in the world WITH Christ?
On to an analogy we can all relate to without any stretch at all: What do we expect of our newborns? We feed them. Often. Change their diapers. Often. Comfort them as they grow and struggle to deal with their “new” life outside of the womb with all of its new stimuli and experiences. We LOVE them. No matter what. We rejoice as they pass developmental milestones . . . . . and continue to clean up their messes, which can on occasion be sizable and very unpleasant to deal with. We lovingly guide and instruct them as they slowly mature.
You can mentally carry the analogy on through the growth process of your children, paralleling it with the spiritual journey of a new believer. Don’t forget to include the pure joy of seeing the first smiles and watching them “get” a new skill or understand a new concept. Do we take the same joy in watching (and watching over if called) a new believer as they grow and stumble and pick themselves up and “get” things as they grow?
Why is it that we as the Church are so impatient (lacking in Grace and Love) with new and/or fellow believers? Yes, the “infant” stage can be exhausting. But without proper nutrition and LOVE, the infant may die. Some will live, but struggle greatly because of improper care. Sadly, I believe there are MANY believers in this category. Without Grace and proper discipline (teaching) a toddler will become defiant, frustrated, rebellious, or simply lose direction. My children are not yet at the adolescent stage, so I haven’t experienced the day-by-day walking out of the next part of the analogy. But having worked with college aged young people, I do know that tremendous time and discussion is required to meet their needs.
Such idealism, passion, vision, and paradoxically cynicism or lack of vision . . . such a season can be nearly as exhausting as the newborn season!
When relating to new/fellow believers, we need to remember that we are not the ones who are in “control” of how a particular believer “turns out”. That’s God’s deal. They are “God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9). We plant. Someone else waters. GOD MAKES THEM GROW. Some of us will have the privilege of discipling someone through to maturity. Some of us need to be content with being a “piece of the puzzle” in someone’s life, maybe never seeing the complete picture until eternity. Whatever God calls us to, we need to be faithful to act in LOVE, or we become a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
We need to recognize that God may be calling a new or fellow believer to a different culture (be it jungle-type or inner city- type) for ministry that we may not be comfortable with, – that would be why God would be calling them and not us :o) – and that God’s best for them (and His purposes) is to maybe keep that nose-ring or weird hair for a time. And there are also those, sadly, who by an act of their will, choose to reject God. Heartbreaking all the way around.
About “not being fearful to stand up for righteousness”. I agree that we need to take a stand for what’s holy and righteous in this world and in our churches/fellowships. I would ask you to take a moment to think about this question: Are you concerned more for the outward appearance of the people in your church/fellowship/family, or with the condition of their spirit in their relationship to a Holy God? How do we actually flesh out taking that “stand”?
Ephesians 6 talks about obedience, honor, respect, fathers training and instructing, making clear that they are not to exasperate their children. How masters should relate to slaves, making clear that God shows no favoritism between the two and that He indeed cares how all are treated. Skipping down the the “Armor of God” portion of the passage, Paul makes it clear that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Then he talks about taking on the Armor of God. Vital principles in which to clothe ourselves. Character and spiritual truth type stuff. He doesn’t go into a what-to-do or not-to-do rules and regulations type thing. He calls us to something much higher and nobler, for the battle is far too important to rely on outward “armor”! And without a new paragraph, flowing right into vs 18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Does that mean pray something like, “God, please convict Sally of her exposed belly-button”, or does it mean praying something like, “God, please show Sally how precious and valuable she is in Your eyes. Let her know who she is in You! Show me if there is anything I can do to help communicate that truth to her!” Should our goal simply be for Sally’s navel to be covered, or should we be more concerned with the condition of her heart and her relationship with God? Do you not think that Sally’s heart, in a right place relationally with God, would be more open to guidance regarding her navel? Perhaps no specific “navel guidance” would be required, since God has a superior way of making us NEW CREATIONS!
Are you willing to cover in prayer a young/fellow believer who still demonstrates worldly attributes while they are maturing? . . . . . . . Are you willing to be patient and let GOD MAKE THEM GROW and watch those “worldly” things fall away as the believer matures and sees them and casts them off readily to HONOR the God who has SAVED them and LOVED them and has bathed them in GRACE?
Are you willing to WAIT for GOD to show you the proper time and place to speak TRUTH IN LOVE into someones life? And then have the Godly boldness (don’t forget the Grace!) to actually do it? Are you willing to be QUIET and TRUST the Holy Spirit when He SHOWS you to be quiet, and trust that HE knows what HE is doing? Are you willing to LOVE the one who is the object of your disapproval, and not try to “change” them so that they are “lovable” before you love them? Are you willing to do any of the above and not simply reject someone because of your disapproval?
Do we want churches/fellowships full of believers who look “right” on the outside, but are broken and wounded and in some cases rotting (white-washed sepulchers) on the inside? Or do we want vibrant, alive, humble, REDEEMED believers in our churches/fellowships who draw unbelievers (yes, many will be wounded and flawed) into the Kingdom of God by the LOVE of God for which mature believers have become free-flowing vessels?
Please look through any concordance under “love” and read just the short phrases. God cares very much about us getting this concept. He has inspired much to be written on this subject. He loves us so much and desires for the Church to be a healing place for the wounded and the lost.
While the above post had more to do with appearence-based issues being discussed on the mom’s forum, on the spiritual level, we also need to be so careful to let God do His work, and not try to force things along or reject someone when we think or feel that they’re not progressing as they should. We need to stick to nurturing, discipling, exhorting, and above all, loving new and fellow believers, leaving the making-them-grow part to God.
Filed under: "Law Keepers", Belief Sytems, Discernment, Formulas, Grace and Law, Holy Spirit, Legalism, Religion, Teachable/Unteachable | Tagged: Belief Systems, Christianity, Discipleship, Grace and Law, Holy Spirit, Legalism, MOMYS |