A Little Understanding – A Poor Protective Cover

What does keeping the outside, outside, look like in the life of a Christ follower? There was at one time a very thick line between us and them. I don’t even like using the term us and them because it suggests that the “us (Christ followers) are somehow better than the “them” (those who haven’t made the choice to follow Christ). Us and them are really the same when it comes to measuring who is better. All of us and all of them have sinned and all of us and all of them have fallen short of the mark.

That being said, tradition within the community of believers has set standards for living as a Christ follower to keep what they identified as the outside, outside. In Chapter 7, we looked at the not-so-creative poem about smoking and chewing. There have been many more moral codes developed by well-meaning Christ followers as outward signs that show the rest of the world that we are not like them. For example, in North America, not drinking alcohol was adopted by many denominations as the true outward sign of a believer. Based on this, Jesus would not have been counted as a believer by many churches in North America!

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners…’ Matthew 11:18-19 (NIV)

I don’t want the focus of this…to be a debate on alcohol…

…as I know this has been debated and will continue to be debated until Christ returns. What is more important is the fact that a very thick line, a list of dos and don’ts,has separated us from them. Scriptures, in or out of context, have been chosen to define what it is to live as a Christ follower. Those who have taken it upon themselves or who have been asked to lay out a map of Christian living look for verses that support their moral code and then make up a set of rules. This becomes part of the culture, not just for Christ followers, but also for those who have no interest in a relationship with the Son of God. Christ followers and even Christ deniers will recite the same standards for anyone who claims to be a Christian. The thick line between us and them is a bunch of rules that became the protective covering…

The Pharisees were known for this with their rules…

…added to rules, topped up with a few more rules, leaving little room for mercy or for that matter, God’s truth. When rules dominate, it is difficult to love or have joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Rules require a judgement of guilt or innocence that leads to actions being taken based on the rule. This makes a well-defined line between us and them that is a form of protective covering, but it isn’t the right one. It’s like a leaky roof with a bucket under the leak; it becomes a cover-up for a poor protective cover. Rules (dos-and-don’ts lists) are temporary fixes for specific issues that never produce a permanent solution. There is no question a bucket under a leak makes an obvious difference, but only for a short period of time. At some point, a way of protecting the home from the elements must be found, one that corrects the problem, not temporarily covers it up.

A protective covering that properly serves…

…the Christ follower and the collective of Christ followers is formed around the unchanging truth of God’s word but also adapts to the changing seasons of the world around us. Rules are not flexible and cannot account for the unknowns. Rules (the poor protective cover) and knowledge share the same limitations. They both are shaped around what has happened, our experiences or the experiences of others that have been communicated to us. Understanding and the proper protective covering share the same opportunities. They both allow us to face any situation, no matter how unanticipated, because we are prepared with an overall view of how God wants us to act.

How about we move from alcohol to food…

…dieting, and exercise. If I am seen in a fast-food restaurant, am I promoting gluttony, leading others to sin? North America is facing a health crisis because of obesity that will far surpass the effects of alcoholism. If I am naturally skinny or through diet and exercise trying to become skinny, should I hide myself because eating disorders are an issue and I may make someone take drastic measures in an attempt to have my body type? If I am really good-looking should I cover my face so no one will lust after me? (The nice part about the last two is I personally don’t have to worry about what I should do; I am neither really good looking nor skinny, and it’s not going to change anytime soon!)

We are warned about men having long hair in the New Testament, but Samson was told not to cut his hair. We are told that sex before marriage is a sin. Paul, using an Old Testament reference to sex (“the two will become one flesh”), seems to be saying that sex is marriage in the eyes of God 1 Corinthians 6:16 (NIV).

Drums have been used by devil worshipping tribes, pianos in establishments that promoted drinking and prostitution, makeup by women looking for one-night stands, cards by gamblers, painkillers by addicts; I am sure you could add a few rules of your own that you have been told are unchristian behaviors to be avoided at all costs, as they are the appearance of evil.

Why I as a follower of Christ behave and act in a certain manner is founded not on rules but on this scripture: “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” Leviticus 11:44 (NIV). The proper protective covering is not a bunch of rules but instead a way of living dedicated to being Holy just like our God.

sermon begins at 15:05

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