As the title suggests, this the 2nd post in this series, so please go back and read the first post to get the contcxt.
First of all, my re-telling of the story landed on the sardonic side. I’m really not angry, but just felt very creative for a bit, so I tried to put it all down before the “creative muse” left me high and dry. Although I am saddened that much of “Christian” thought in this area is dominated by fundamentalistic thinking (making up outward rules not in the bible, preachers yelling at people, and trying to make God like us, etc…) There is not much gospel-centered thinking or preaching: God already loves me, so I therefore want to follow Him, failing regularly as I go, and showing grace to others. That much I’ve witnessed and heard from countless folks.
In fact one picture of sanctification someone espoused from the pulpit in a local church looked like this: a long haired, ear-ringed, tatooed, man came to church, and over time, he cut his hair, got rid of his ear-rings, covered his tatoos. That’s sanctification: outwardly conforming to some sort of cultural norm not based upon scripture.
So that is prevalent. But is there any response demanded from someone who walks up to you and demands that you conform to this model?
I don’t think there is necessarily any response demanded. For instance, I had nothing to say. Nothing came to me. And as my dear friend Jeremy pointed out in his comment, it would probably not have been gracious. Truthful perhaps, but not gracious. I shouldn’t have said anything because nothing came to me.
While visiting Israel on a foreign study trip in college, an orthodox Jew in Jerusalem made me take either the meat or the milk product OFF of the table. I knew I couldn’t have meat-lovers pizza in Jerusalem (I had cheese while my buddy opted for the Tuna-bad choice), but I didn’t realize they couldn’t even be on the same table. I obliged, more out of safety than anything. He wasn’t too happy. I’d probably oblige again.
But when a Christian comes and demands you follow something extra-biblical, provided words come to you, it is right to say something. Particularly because the plate on the bible thing is really just the tip of the iceberg of a disbelief in the gospel.
Jesus comes into contact with some pharisees, first century fundamentalists, and he challenges their assumptions. They can’t figure out why his disciples don’t wash their hands, according to the traditions of the elders. He goes for the spiritual jugular, the heart, and quotes Isaiah, showing that this has been a problem for a long time in Israel: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:1-8)”
It is not good to make up commands. Jesus is not a fan, even when you think you are doing God a favor. Clearly this woman felt like it was dishonoring to God’s Word to put a plate on my bible. But the Pharisees seemed to have used the same argument. They honored God with lips, but their hearts were far from him. All of their actions fell under the rubric of “You need to honor God,” but because their motivation was so far off (making God their debtor by making up rules and trying to get others to follow them), they actually ignored the ACTUAL commands of loving their parents.
When people do make up commands, we have an opportunity to address that behavior, provided our tones aren’t dominated by sarcasm or anger (I Peter 3:15-17; this verse refers specifically to dialog with unbelievers, but I’m pretty sure the whole gentleness and respect thing applies across the board).
If the Lord has given you nothing to say, then follow Allison Krauss’ lead (or Keith Wheatly) and “say nothing at all.” But it is a good thing to seek answers which would challenge our fundamentalist brother and sisters in the faith with the truth and the gospel.
Here are some questions I might ask when I have my next “interruption,” which may open the door for the gospel. Instead of following your heart (or mine) and saying “get a life,” these might start the conversation off on the right foot.
1.) Where in the bible does it say that? Could you show it to me? If its not there, should we hold this belief with such certainty, and THEN expect others to follow this command?
2.) I appreciate your concern to honor God’s Word, and there are many ways of honoring God. What are some other ways which YOU display a high view of the Word? Here are some ways I value God’s Word: hearing it preached regularly, studying it regularly, discussing it in community, applying it, cherishing it, etc….
Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to wash their hands, even though that would have been a more “peaceful” response. I might refuse to take the plate off the bible next time, but I will definitely not do so devoid of gospel-centered dialog. But if I, or you, feel that the gospel is not threatened, then I or you can follow Paul’s example and have one dude circumcised and the other not. The answer depends upon gospel-centered thinking more so than our (and mine in particular) goal or desire to prove someone else wrong.
Feel free to share any other pertinent questions you feel might be helpful.
One question (well at least one) remains: will it do any good? And if it won’t (or at least if we presume it won’t do any good), should that be a reason for why say nothing at all? I’ll get to that one tomorrow and then get off the fundamentalist response kick.