Thursday, June 09, 2011

When obedience becomes sin

Covered By His Hand: Liberated

Bethany, who almost never blogs anymore, wrote something interesting that I wanted to share. I ran into Bethany online a few years ago because of some common interests, most notably homeschooling and headcovering. Both of us have modified and matured many of our positions over the years including in some areas that we held strong opinions on. Bethany's latest post is an examination of how she has matured and been liberated from self-righteousness, something we all could stand more of.

I think her closing paragraph is great….

For now, our family is attending a huge, very diverse church in town with “normal Christians.” Some are immodest. Most choose to send their kids to public school. Most families send their kids out of the service (just before the preaching) to go to children’s church. The girls flirt. The boys are often naughty. There are broken families alongside the healthy families. There are divorced people. There are working mothers. There are many things that Paul and I used to shrink from. But, for now, this group is home. We go and we minister to those in need. (And we are ministered to as well). We pray for the hurting and the sick (and we receive prayer as well). We worship with our whole hearts alongside of other imperfect Christians. We may not look like our previous notions of what holy Christians look like. But that’s okay. We stand before God admitting that we are undone, and thanking Him that it is HE and not ourselves who makes us Holy. This is the gospel.
I am not super interested in the huge church thing but I like that Bethany recognizes that there are imperfect people there who need to be loved and ministered to. It is easy and quite troubling to wall ourselves off from others we disagree with on secondary issues because we feel more comfortable and honestly because we feel superior. I used to see this all the time among other Reformed Christians (and myself) and I see hints of it in other groups I run across, whether simple/house church groups or Anabaptist gatherings or family-integrated churches. It is something we must constantly be on guard against because it can be so easy to be arrogant and puffed up over our own holiness and forget that it is only the holiness of Christ that justifies us. Now that doesn’t mean that we should encourage our daughters to dress immodestly to fit in or excuse sin in the church but it does mean that our own feeble attempts at obedience are just that, feeble and often failing.

As I commented at the post, there is a danger in allowing our desire for obedience and our perceived success at being obedient to turn into something we lord over other Christians. We see them as less mature, less discerning, less “Christian” if we are honest. Often this attitude is accompanied by dividing ourselves from them. It is hard to be in fellowship with other Christians that you think are “wrong” about something, especially when it is a something you feel strongly about.

We homeschool our kids but I would say there are many parents who are “better” parents than us in many respect who send their kids to public school. That doesn’t make homeschooling wrong nor does it make public schooling right but it does mean that our attempt to be obedient in what we see as a mandate from God doesn’t make us better parents than other people. The same holds true with lots of other positions I hold: headcovering, simple church, Reformed theology, patriarchy, etc.. I hold them because I believe they are true but me believing something is true doesn’t give me the right to look down at those who don’t. Just to note something here, there is a difference between calling out false teaching and dividing over secondary issues. I have no issue with issuing a warning call or a wake-up where I think it is necessary as long as we don’t do so out of arrogance and we don’t divide ourselves over it.

Sometimes we can do the right thing for the wrong reason and in doing so we turn obedience into sin. I appreciate what Bethany had to say even if I don’t agree 100% with everything because it shows a willingness to test all things, admit when you are wrong even when you are “right” and reinforce that no one has cause to brag in anything but Jesus Christ. Check out what she wrote, I think it is a very thought provoking post.


Bean said...

I always enjoyed Bethany's blog, and miss it. I am glad to hear that they seem settled, and content.
Another blog I follow had a great post about struggles with appearance and fitting in and sometimes having to let things go because your appearance becomes a distraction, an obstacle, to reaching others rather than a witness.

There is a fine line between doing things for the greater glory of God and simply being legalistic. We are all sinners and none of us knows what is in anothers heart.

Bethany W. said...

I am pleased if my post causes anyone to step back and re-examine their hearts.

Bean, The blog is public again. I put some updates on recently.


Bethany W. said...

Also, I am not necessarily recommending huge churches. It is just where God has planted us for now. Paul and I would still be open to attending a tiny long as it is not small on account of shutting out anyone who disagrees.