Is it just me or does the Christian faith ever seem a bit complex and confusing? One of the greatest pitfalls that I see young Christians facing while attempting to adhere to “Christian standards” is that no two Christians maintain the same standards to be relevant. Every group of Christians that we run across holds to a set of moral standards, none of them are completely consistent with each other, and all of them sneer at either the stringency or the leniency of all the others. I think that it’s important that we as Christians periodically take a step back to examine our moral codes of ethics, comparing them against true biblical doctrine to see if they, in fact, hold water. It may be that If we are unwilling to do so, we risk forming our own sets of extra-biblical rules, attempting to base them on the Bible, and confusing the people around us who are watching to see if there is any relevancy to our claims. Now understand that I am in no way against maintaining personal convictions which may be extra-biblical. The danger emerges when the Bible is referenced as a source for such personal preferences when these preferences are simply not based on biblical doctrine. In Matthew 15:9 Jesus called this activity, “Teaching as their doctrine the precepts of men”. The indication here is that extra-biblical rules being regarded as biblical doctrine even bothered Jesus, and according to Christian beliefs, He was God. Perhaps we should consider this seriously. I’m going to list some examples, not in effort to put anyone off or to make all of my readers, friends, and family angry. But instead to… Well, just for fun. Examples are bullet-pointed bellow.
- “I don’t smoke because of my Christian faith. After all, my body is a temple of God, and I will not defile it. Hey, I’m feelin’ a Quarter Pounder, some greasy fries and a bucket of Coke! I’m already 40 pounds overweight, but who cares, let’s go!”
If this is you then really what you are concerned with is maintaining a “Christian” image. You base your moral animadversion against tobacco products on the Biblical idea that our bodies are a temple of The Lord and thus we must keep them healthy. Then you, at least to some degree (admit it), condemn people around you for smoking while you don’t condemn (or at least not to the same degree) others around you who are indulging in another unhealthy practice. The Bible says absolutely nothing against tobacco products specifically. What it does talk about is the importance of not defiling our bodies which are indeed His temple. Christians have rightly considered unhealthy habits to be one source of defilement. The problem emerges when Christians regard one unhealthy habit as somehow being worse, according to God’s standards, than another unhealthy habit.
- “I am a woman who does not wear makeup because of my Christian faith. After all, the Bible mentions Ol’ Jezebel and her face painting and that’s condemnation enough for me.”
I think that there was more to Jezebel’s evil ways than “face painting”. This one is really funny to me because, in the story of Jezebel, the Bible never says anything against makeup. It simply mentions that she was wearing it. To say that the Bible’s mentioning Jezebel’s face painting is an indication of the sinful nature of painting one’s face is a little like saying that partaking of The Lord’s Supper is a sin because the Bible mentions that Judas did so. And he was a bad one.
- “I give my pastor complete authority over what spouse I choose, what car I drive, what clothes I wear, how I spend my money, etc., because of my Christian faith.”
Really? Either explain the biblical basis for this or stop looking down your noses at everybody else who disregards what you consider to be a super Christian example, and labels it “legalistic horse crap”. Mmmm, a little harsh, huh? I’ll tone it down. I promise.
- “I don’t drink because of my Christian faith.”
Did Jesus drink?
This should end the discussion, but I’m aware that it simply never does.
- “I believe that the Bible is the only acceptable work of literature because of my Christian faith; therefore, I only read the Bible rather than cluttering my mind with the simple opinions of others.”
Obviously, if you’re reading this, then you’re not one of these people. Nevertheless, remember that many books of the Bible were not initially written to be part of the Bible; they were added later. I believe that God knew as they were being written that these books would be used in His Bible, but the authors most likely didn’t know. Consider that, even though the books were not necessarily written to be part of the Bible, they were still written. And why do we write books? We write them because we expect people to read them. Thus we deduce that even the writers behind the Bible itself wrote and most likely read outside of the specific books of the Bible. Again, what did they know?
- “I am a stay at home mom because of my Christian faith”.
What about the proverbs 31 woman? The proverbs 31 woman is one who does the following: Selects wool and flax and works with eager hands: She brings her food from afar: She gets up while it is dark and provides food for her family and servant girls: She buys a field and out of earnings plants a vineyard: Her arms are strong for tasks, her trading is profitable.
Kind of hard to do all of that from the house don’t you think?
“Well, I didn’t say I was a Proverbs 31 woman. I said I was a Christian woman! And my faith compels me to stay at home.”
Now we’re getting somewhere! If this is a personal rule that you’ve set for yourself, great! Really. But regarding this personal rule as biblical doctrine which is set in stone spawns confusion for young Christians who are watching you closely, and are having a hard time finding any such standard in the Bible itself.
These were just a few examples that I could quickly think of. If I were to really think about it, I’m sure the list of examples would be endless (e.g., I only study out of the King James text: Hymns are the only form of worship songs approved by God: Wearing a ball cap in church is an abomination: Girls can’t wear pants: No PDA: No birth control: No dating: No coffee in the sanctuary: God likes darn better than damn: All truth can be found in the scriptures, etc.)
At this point, I can assume that many of you may be asking yourselves, “Wouldn’t it be better, if we are going to err on one side or the other, to err on the side of too legalistic rather than too lenient?” I used to work with a guy who believed this to be true. And perhaps I should admit that I do as well, but only if the erring is unintentional. It may be that while trying to interpret modesty for herself, a woman will err unintentionally to one side or the other, and erring toward a little too modest is probably better than erring toward a little too immodest. I could think of other for instances, but the point is that the woman’s erring, whether to one direction or the other is unintentional. She has not discovered for herself what may be the biblical standard for modesty and decided to turn it up a notch or two. Instead, she is simply on the path of discovery. Perhaps soon she will develop a better balance in this area. I think we lose balance when we read our Bibles and discover what it says about how we should dress, eat, speak, learn etc., and we determine that it is our Christian duty, in a sense, to outperform the Bible. Then we begin to intentionally develop a legalistic standard of living that transcends the example given by the Saints and even Christ!