Get in Line Christians

It seems that it has always been the domain of institutional Christianity to try and keep people in line. We invent all sorts of rules and artificial boundaries that might have little foundation in scripture but comply with our own sensibilities and preferences. Then we impose them on others.

Usually these rules have an air of holiness about them, but typically if you dig a little you discover that they are grounded in fear and have little to do with the gospel.

I was reading John again this morning and got up to chapter 5 where Jesus heals the lame bloke by the pool and tells him to ‘take up his mat and get out of there’. The man does as he is told and immediately gets in trouble from the Pharisees because he is carrying his bed on the Sabbath. Somehow the miracle of his healing had eluded them and they only saw a rule breaker (who was violating one of their own laws, as distinct from a God given law.)

This is one of the tragic results of being legalists – we miss the incredible good that happens because we are so concerned about dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s. When Christians / churches begin focusing on the minutiae of personal preference in matters of behaviour and then move to legislate (culturally) on these issues the gospel becomes completely obscured.

Jesus couldn’t care less if you wear a tie at the communion table…

Jesus doesn’t get upset if you leave your hat on when you walk into the church building…

Jesus doesn’t shoot concerned glares each time you open a naked pure blonde

Jesus doesn’t doesn’t care if… you can finish your own sentence here

In fact who was the person that told the man to take up his mat?…



Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He is the one who flouts these crazy man made laws that only serve to obscure the bigger issues of grace and truth.

I have increasingly less patience for the ecclesiastical police who inhabit our churches and who seek to correct the behaviour of others by trying to conform others to their own standard. Whether it’s the dress code police, the language police, the consumption police or the ‘sanctuary’ police, I think Jesus would take great delight in flouting their rules and showing them to be mere preferences rather than divine commands.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for holy living, but let’s not confuse that with fearful living.

4 thoughts on “Get in Line Christians

  1. I’ve noticed that it’s these sorts of people who don’t live a graceful life. They don’t give grace to many people, and especially not themselves.

  2. I’ve been away (from the ‘pooter) for a while – enjoyed reading the last couple of weeks worth of posts this evening.

    Nothing of use to contribute except ‘hi’!

    I’ll be witty and inspiring another day.

    Toddy (working where the airconditioning protects me from reality!)

  3. I have sat in an elder’s meeting where it was stated, “The day we do that at (name of church), is the last day I am an elder.

    No discussion. No seeking Jesus. Nothing but selfish, legalistic thought.

    Legalism sux.

  4. Hi Andrew,

    The exercise of power and control by the church police is a serious problem in many evangelical churches and I concur with your thoughts. Perhaps this is one of the major reasons, attendance at church services is on the decline as a proportion of the total Australian population?

    Why is there so much legalism? Are some people failing to have their hearts softened by the compassion of the lowly Galilean? Did not the lowly Galiean show compassion and mercy to outcasts? So why don’t we?(I’m referring to the thought police).

    Could it be that we do not view God through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth? Has not our overemphasis on the deity of Jesus (a truth set forth in the NT and to which I subscribe)undervalued the humanity of Jesus in Evangelical circles? Could this be part of the problem?


    John Arthur

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