Q&A - Wondering Together About Faith & LifeUncategorised

Say WHAT? Aren’t there more rules to Christian living than THAT?

Good afternoon everyone.

This past Sunday (February 7) we finished the four-part series, “Does The Bible Really Say That?“.
We were exploring issues around rules and regulations and customs and practices which we encounter.
Are there times when we can confidently say, “All Christians Should….
Does the Bible really say that?

The message was posted here on the PKN blog yesterday, along with the study guide.

Two questions came in, continuing the conversation.
Here they are, along with some of my thoughts by way of response.
If you have any comments you’re welcome to post them.

Thanks for submitting, reading, and sharing the journey of learning in faith and growing as apprentices of Jesus!

Question 1
I’m wondering – the message seems somewhat incomplete. The Bible clearly identifies things that are sinful or wrong. And we are called to mutual accountability. What about Matthew 18:15-20? Are you suggesting “anything goes”?

Question 2
I agree, you cannot judge others. BUT does God not also say that if what you do causes distress to a fellow Christian you should NOT do that?

Good questions. You’re poking at some of the contours and edges of the issue. Asking questions that I’m sure a bunch of other people were probably thinking. Glad you did!

So, let’s get started…..

Question 1
I’m wondering – the message seems somewhat incomplete. The Bible clearly identifies things that are sinful or wrong. And we are called to mutual accountability. What about Matthew 18:15-20? Are you suggesting “anything goes”?

Matthew 18:15-20 talks someone “sinning against you.” And about the power of community in calling each other to the kind of life that Jesus wants his followers to live.
How would you define such a lifestyle? What are the “bones” that give it shape?
We mentioned them on Sunday.
They are simple.
There are two of them – that look remarkably alike.
(see Mark 12; Matthew 22; Luke 10)
And everything else grows out of them.
a. Love God with all you’ve got.
b. Love others like yourself.

Practice these…
…And repeat.
Which is far from an “anything goes” way of living.

Here, too, is where the problem often comes.
Religious people look at these two and feel uncomfortable.
Because they are rather general in nature. We tend to be more comfortable with specifics.
The New Testament lists a few examples of what “Love God/Neighbor” living looks like. Surprisingly few, actually. Especially when compared to ancient Jewish religion, where there were over 600 catalogued laws and rules believers had to follow. To the letter.
So what happens over time is that religious communities begin to take certain ways of doing things that may be good, very good even, and start writing them up as non-negotiable. Matters that, if you really pushed and dug, were more issues of culture or custom. Certainly not God-ordained non-negotiables.

The New Testament Church had to wrestle with this question – Can we impose what happens to be the custom of our particular practices on all believers? On Sunday we peeked in listed some of the conflicts they experienced (check out Acts 15:19-21 along with Galatians 2:10, and Romans 14:1-8, and Colossians 2:16).

The Church today still wrestles with it. Issues that turn out to be more matters of culture or custom, and not matters of Loving God/Neighbor and all that grows out of that. It’s amazing how much we can lay the hammer, so to speak, to another person over issues like:
– do you wear jeans to church, or a tie?
– is worship to be on Sunday, or could you go on Saturday?
– may you drink wine, or should you abstain?
– can we read from this or that version of the Bible in Church?
– should I practice fasting (especially in Lent)
– may I cross myself while praying? Raise hands? Kneel?
– what about burning incense? What if the incense is sweetgrass?
– may First Nations people use their drum in worship?

Our default tendency is to over-tighten the regulations.
Declaring our custom or culture to be THE right way.
Grace, New Testament version, has much wider boundaries than we might care to admit.


Question 2

I agree, you cannot judge others. BUT does God not also say that if what you do causes distress to a fellow Christian you should NOT do that?
Two thoughts on this –
a. Yup, fully agree with you. We don’t want to cause distress to another person. That’s a key part of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I am responsible for my fellow believer. And if there’s something I’m doing that is truly crippling their faith, and drawing them away from Jesus, I had better NOT be doing that right under their nose. Love demands that.  Jesus calls me to that!

b. However (ah yes, isn’t there always one of these?) – over the years I’ve seen people use this call from Romans 14:13 as a “club” they use to beat down people with other points of view. “You’re causing me to stumble, and so you have to stop…… x / y / z.”

And when you listen for a while it doesn’t take long to see that it really isn’t a matter of Bob doing something that is causing Jacob’s faith to be shaken and crippled. It’s just that Jacob doesn’t like what Bob is doing. And starts bad-mouthing it. And uses this verse as a power tactic to try and control Bob.   Worship wars are classic examples of where this happens.

In which case I’ve had to go to people like Jacob and gently encourage them to keep reading in Romans 14 all the way down to verse 16 – “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.”

Just because I may not like something doesn’t make it wrong. And I need to learn to speak with care and to hold my tongue about something that may be near and dear to another believer. That, too, is part of “love your neighbor as yourself.”

In both cases it is easy to become all fixated on the particular habit or behaviour and to lose sight of the bigger picture.

Romans 14 continues by telling us that the Kingdom of God is about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification…” (v.17-18)

Again, keep the big picture.
Live with generous helpings of grace.
Recognize the broad boundaries of Christ’s kingdom, especially in matters of custom and culture.
Hey, I’m sure that not every angle got covered in these thoughts.
So, if anyone has further nuggets to add to the conversation, love to hear it.

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