Sunday, January 15, 2006

Don't Push Your Convictions on Me!

I’ve been a part of church for a long time. I grew up in a little church that, although I didn’t realize it at the time, was pretty legalistic. By that, I mean that there were certain rules that were in place that only existed because “…Christians just don’t do that.” We joked about “we don’t dance, we don’t chew, and we don’t go with girls who do” but sadly, it seemed that was about the extent of it. Soon after I left home and left that church to attend another in my college town, I found out that many who preached those rules – didn’t really hold to the rules themselves.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of legalism in a place isn’t even the rules, it’s the inability to be transparent; the need to uphold an image of “christianity” that is only a façade. We wear smiles when we’re dying inside. I saw this a lot growing up. And, unfortunately, I learned to play along.

I’ve been a part of new churches that have started in reaction to the legalism of old churches. In their reaction, they allowed the pendulum to swing to a place of “freedom in Christ” that apparently forgot that the freedom we have in Him is a freedom from the chains of sin. We’re not slaves to it anymore!! A good friend of mine once said that we ask the wrong question. We’re always asking how close we can get to “the line” without really sinning. When what we really should be asking is how close can we get to Christ. And, what would it look like to really follow Him. To love as He loved, give as He gave.

Right now, I’m a part of a church that is real. And I love it. It’s an old church. I’m sure it’s had its days of legalism too. Probably none of us is immune to it. And, it’s not perfect. There’s a lot of messy stuff that goes on. But here’s the deal. We’re committed to be authentic, to not play church. You want to be anonymous, to blend in, to come and get your “church fix” and then go? Then this is probably not the place for you. But if you want to be a part of a community that is serious about learning what it means to be church, to discover what it means to walk in the way Jesus did, I think we might get there.

This weekend we… as a group, a community …made a covenant together. Not just individuals vowing something to God. There was that, but it was more. We talked about the responsibility we have to one another. About being a covenant community who are engaged in the world, but not engaged to it. And something about it felt very different from places I’ve been before. It wasn’t a list of rules, and it wasn’t reckless “freedom in Christ”. It was a commitment to pursue… together… the very heart of God. Wow.

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