Drinking, Smoking, Cussing, And the Worst Sin of All…

16 01 2008


And thus I have summarized what my understanding of Christianity was for the first 18 or so years of my life.  Now I very well realize that dealing with any of these topics opens a can of monkeys.  If you want to get a lively discussion going amongst my congregation, skip church growth, evangelism, spiritual formation and other such issues and head straight for my titular topics.  I choose to avoid the fray on these except to say that if you’re a member of a church that eschews these things, and yet you continue to include them in your lifestyle, then that is quite carnal.  There may be argument over what things are equal to blasphemy in the eyes of the Lord, he writes tongue-in-cheek. There may be argument over which translations of the Bible will send you straight to the burning coals of hell in a heartbeat, or even if hell burns at all, he writes at risk of stirring up great disdain and displeasure.  But if you agree to the yoke, or discipline, of the church by entering into membership, you should abide by it.  If your church prohibits planting begonias, and yet you do so, you are in sin because you have renigged on your membership covenant.  You see, covenants are in place to help us, as items of spiritual formation, to DISCIPLINE our unruly selves to the things of Christ, he writes knowing few people like to be disciplined.  But alas, there is something even greater at foot that I wish to boot around.

It occurs to me that if you posted a giant picture of Bugs Bunny at the front of the church some Sunday, people would get more frothy and disturbed by that than they do about the hurts of the person sitting next to them.  We get up in arms about issues of discipline, while we forsake issues of true soul health.  Every potential “sin” has merit as a point of discussion and conclusion.  But if we have no passion for those who are without Christ, then we’ve forsaken Jesus’ prime directive.  Christ taught a ministry work that reaches out, seeks the hurting, helps the needy, and gives hope to those without hope.  He ministered with healing hands, not slapping hands.  (Yes, He did clear the temple…  but that happened just once…  this shows that there is a time and place for everything.)

There is a good reason why Scripture does not lay out specific answers to specific questions.  For one thing, the Bible would weigh 17 tons if it did.  Serious study of the Word of God (and I’m not talking about reading the verse of the day from “Daily Bread”) leads us to understand that the Bible deals with transformational thinking.  Renewal.  Restoration.  Revival.  These are themes that appear consistently in the Word.  It would be right to understand that the Bible doesn’t address many specific issues at all, rather, we receive the invitation to be renewed of mind and instructions on how that happens.  Spiritual formation teachings help us to grow this way. 

God seems to love to answer prayers for wisdom.  The problem is that we think we’ll instantly become an Encyclopedia Brown.  A human Wiki.  Instead, wisdom must be learned and used.  If we pray for wisdom, we receive the opportunities to grow wiser.  If we rebuff them, or fail to use what we learn, then we are forsaking the very wisdom we prayed for.  Once, in college, I prayed for wisdom hoping it would get me through a biology test.  Today, I pray that God will give me the mind to take in the vast riches of learning that is available for me, and that I will have the wisdom to know how to be wise!

It’s not that any one issue isn’t important.  But when we become Christians made up of issues, rather than Christ-followers who seek to do the work of Christ, we’ve really missed the focus of the Gospel.  Legalities and liberalism are both dangerous extremes.  Let God be God, and let us be about His work, not ours.




6 responses

17 01 2008

I really enjoy your insights, however I disagree with the first argument you put forward. What if your Church asks you to do things completely against the word of the Lord? Does the word of the Lord not hold supremacy over the covenants created by man? I realize that maybe at this point you would argue it is time to find a new Church, but as an avid Christian and a minor I can tell you with great sincerity some people do not have a choice in what Church they attend.

17 01 2008

Thanks for your insightful comments. I realize now that I left out an important part of my statement to which you are referring. I will edit for future readers. Let me clarify that I was speaking in terms of membership. If one agrees to a specific membership covenant with a church, but fails to live up to what was agreed upon, that is sinful. That doesn’t infer obedience to any extraneous rules set forth outside of the covenant. You certainly have given me cause for great thought and concern… I’m wondering what type of non-Biblical teaching you’re referring to. In some instances I would say that such a church has become a cult. I would never want someone to enter into sinful conduct at anyone’s behest – especially not the church. I think my point still holds up, though, under the consideration that if the church teaches a discipline, or “yoke”, to help congregants in their walk with Christ, so long as the yoke itself is Biblically sound, and one agrees to that convenant, then it would be sinful to break from that yoke. Under your circumstances, presuming that you never agreed to the offensive teaching, I certainly side with you. My church asks members to abstain from the use or sale of tobacco. Even though there is no mention of Marlboros in Scripture, we see this as a means of pesonal discipline. Therefore, agreeing to that yoke means that failure to uphold it is carnal (of self will – defiant – prideful). Does that make sense?

18 01 2008

You make perfect sense and I agree with you. I just thought I’d bring up the situation.

…and you mistake what I have known and seen for what I myself have done. I’m perfectly happy with parents who allow me to choose my own church and explore my faith on my own with relatively little interruption. However I do have friends whose parents have not really forced, but left little option in what church they attend. I am not sure if I could call it cultish, but it certainly isn’t loving. It’s extremely exclusive and a little crazy. But unless I am mistaken since they have not willfully gone and entered into the covenant of that church they are not sinning when they do not obey all its rules?

18 01 2008

I apologize for the above comments really poor use of the English language…I think my brain is shutting down preemptively for the weekend.

18 01 2008

It took me a couple of reads, but I think I get your drift. Assuming that I understand you correctly, I would offer the following thoughts off the top of my head (in other words, anything I say is subject to further thought!):

1. You say you have friends whose parents have forced them to attend a certain church. What age friends are you speaking of? I would say that children certainly must respect their parents choice of churches as long as they live under their roof. I do have mixed feelings about saying that – I certainly wish that all influential young people could go to healthy, Biblically sound churches. But that’s a HUGE subject to tackle.

2. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t give the wrong impression to anyone – the “sin”, as it were, pertaining to membership coventants, is in giving your word then going back on it. If you accept a membership covenant with a church, then you need to abide by your word. While there are a few bad apple churches out there, I suspect that a vast majority have a healthy, sound doctrinal statement. Even though I wouldn’t agree with everyone’s theology, if you covenant to follow a certain church’s discipline, then you have given your word.

3. I do think that there are essential areas of faith, and other areas that are prone to rational reasoning and well-founded conviction. If your friends are in disobedience to the Bible, then I would certainly regard such acts to be sin. If they have not made a membership promise, and if they are striving to walk with Christ, I would suspect they are on good ground. There is much, much, much more to be said, but it’s hard to do so in a forum such as this and without considering each individual’s circumstances.

I hope some of this is helpful.

By the way – do you have a blog? I would be interested in reading it if you do. Blessings to you and have a great weekend.

21 01 2008

Sorry this reply is so late. Okay I agree with you…you are saying the sin is the act of turning back upon your word, breaking a promise or lying in a sense. That makes sense. And I do have a blog, sadly I have been horrible at writing consistently even though that was the primary purpose for creating one, but I’m working on it.


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