As I was looking back over past posts I was reminded of the discussion around Christianity and Rules from last year. This post stirred the most conversation (both on and off the internet) of anything that I have ever posted. I believe that some of this discussion was really important, so I’m re-posting some of my thoughts from the back and forth comments following the original “Separating the Rules From Christianity” post. I hope it stirs some inspiration in you.
The problem between Christians and those who do not identify themselves as Christians is not that they do not know what we stand for. They know (for the most part) perfectly well. Christians have made it abundantly clear what we stand for (or stand against). That is why the world sees Christianity as a religion of rules.
What does following Jesus look like when we strip away the rule following?
If we cannot conceive of a Christian life that is not dominated by the behaviors of right living, then we are not really following Jesus. We are following a system or right and wrong.
Most people do not reject Christianity because they are offended by Jesus, they are offended by Jesus’ people who offer a religious system of morality rather than introducing them to the life-giver. Christians in America are not persecuted for righteousness sake, they are persecuted for being rude and arrogant.
We often hear that the Bible is very clear about the way a person should live. The Bible is not clear. If we think it is, then it is time to go back and read without any preconceptions. The Old Testament is chock full of people who behaved in incredibly unethical ways (that is what we would call it), yet the Bible never condemns these people, God does not punish them, but continues to bless them. Often those who seem innocent of any wrong suffer terribly.
Jesus says, “sell all you own and give the money to the poor.” He tells those who follow Him, “Unless you hate your father and mother, you have no part of me.” How many of us consider those to be guidelines for the average Christian? We tend toward rules about drinking and smoking rather than selling all we own, and yet the above commands of Jesus are much more direct than anything the Bible ever says about drinking, smoking, or listening to secular music.
What about divorce? What about women speaking in church? What about eating bacon? What about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek?
We could also look at Jesus’ example. We know that He lived a perfectly blameless life, but His life was about far more than following religious precepts. Jesus provided large amounts of wine for a party so that the people could get more drunk than they already were. Jesus disregarded accepted social and religious statutes. Jesus taught things and did things that were more subversive to the religious culture than most of us realize. Jesus was a trouble maker, not a rule follower.
Let’s, once agin, go back to the heart of this discussion. What does it mean to follow Jesus if there are no rules? If we cannot answer this question without defending rules, then we must make some adjustment to our Christianity.
I think the song Heart of Worship by Matt Redman puts this into beautiful perspective.
When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart
I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You’re looking into my heart
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
All about You, Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You Jesus