Some people swear and curse. That’s okay with me. What I mean is, I’ve heard some pretty horrible things said to people with normal words. Curse words may have questionable or embarrassing meanings, but the use of them actually robs the speaker of the impact of communication. Hence, normal words spoken in hate and selfishness are more damaging because they carry more meaning. This illustrates the point that outward rules of conduct do little to address the issues of the heart.
When anyone presents me with a list of things I should or shouldn’t do because I’m a Christian, I am skeptical. It causes me to question their religious (undoubtedly man-made) organization and whether they understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Man-made religions are performance based. Do this. Don’t do that. Give yourself points. Ostracize those who don’t follow the correct institutionally prescribed spiritual path. Strive to do enough good.
Over and over, God makes it clear that the goal of the original law was to help us love our neighbors and have a proper perspective of our God. (I suggest reading the whole Bible for the complete story, but sections like Mark 12:31-34 and Romans 13:8-10 say it well) The sinful human heart is inherently selfish and prideful. Every sin and problem in the world can be boiled down to these two elements.
Unfortunately for many people, man-made systems (whether they are acknowledged as religions or not) for achieving that higher level of existence are doomed to fail, even if they are conveniently given the label “Christian.” It is impossible to truly and fully love without having humbly embraced the need for our own complete forgiveness and rebirth through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then, after that, each regenerated believer begins down a unique path of walking with the One who has loved most intensely.
Yes, as believers, we are told to encourage one another. We can have conversations about why a certain activity or choice is loving or not toward our neighbor. Or why it might grieve the God who made us. Experience and circumstance will affect all of this. One day we may feel very strongly about wearing sleeves, but we should do it without claiming that it is necessary for maturity. Another of us may not have any conviction about smoking. Let humility prevail and legalism die. Our true family in Christ will take this all in stride.
In the early days of the church, there was some difficulty letting go of the law, but over the course of the story we see that more and more rules fell by the wayside. When we finally get to John writing his letters on the island of Patmos, he writes about love so much as the core and power behind all Christian relationships, that one wonders if he has forgotten that Old Testament Law. What an idea. Be done with it.
Again, that doesn’t mean that nothing is talked about. The issue of immorality is talked of because that is the epitome of selfishly using another person in a destructive way, even if they willingly participate. But, then, gossip is usually in the list of harmful things, too. The key is that NOT doing any of these things is of dubious value to a person if he or she is not bonded with Christ. If a person is in the palm of Christ, there will sooner or later be freedom from these things.
So, I’m not going to enter a battle over so-called values. Sinners will sin. Lovers will love. Governments can make laws, but they make bad ones, too. Religious institutions tend to strip true Christianity of it’s life, if they really can, and present a false picture to the world. True Christians and the true Church have been alive through the centuries in spite of all of this, because there is a patient and powerful God in heaven. I am free in Him. I hope you can be, too.