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.