Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Releasing the rules.

"They thought inner holiness would be proved by external separation from the world. So they invented rules for dress, behavior, and relationships that would show their dedication to God."

I'm writing about Evangelicals and early Pentecostals in the first decades of C20. Missionary men and women set standards for converts overseas, too. Sometimes the "Christianeeze" was pure silliness. Lou Page apologized to her family in a letter from Fiji: "Sorry that our toddler is barefooted. Our shoes have worn out and it is very hot here." What?! She feared the judgment of her parents and siblings because her kids were shoe-less, which would have been the sign of an awful or impoverished family in the United States.

When our kids were growing up, they experimented with weird fashions. Our daughter wore black for over a year, when Goth trends were just beginning to appear. We were choosing our arguments carefully at the time, so we stipulated modestly... regardless of color. She wore long-sleeved shirts and dropped her hair over her eyes. But she wasn't un-dressed, so we let it go. We could have had great fights with her, but why? We wanted her to love Jesus, and she seemed to be on shaky spiritual ground for a bit.

Fashion ranked low on our child-rearing priority scale. Our boys have dressed well and poorly. One wore parkas in summer and left the house in T-shirts in winter. Another wore the same outfit all week, though he showered every day. We could have made much ado about nothing. Eventually, they outgrew their quirks.

Families shun each other over disagreements about holiday traditions, furniture placement, and other unimportant things. Churches seem to split over the color of the carpet, the length of the hem, and theological quibbles. Is our Heavenly Father pleased?

Jesus scolded those who made rules to define the faith of others. By the time he grew up, Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes had hundreds of little qualifiers to demonstrate holiness. It's really sad to read about early Pentecostals and 'holiness movements' who thought their rules would make God happier.

We keep trying to help God along with our additions to his grace. Sure, he expects us to align ourselves with his nature in worship, truth, honesty, faithfulness, goodness. (Read the 10 Commandments for basic alignment with him. They're not just laws. They're reflections of what he's like.)

This coming year, I'd like to be open to new ideas about a life devoted to God. I have a few "should" and "could" items to let slide, expectations that are not life-changers and some that may not even be realistic. I want to release my fears and failures to wallow in God's pool of forgiveness, sprinkling his abundance on those around me. Spiritual peace with God expresses itself in righteousness and joy, even if we wear more jeans than dresses, sweep our porch only when we notice the pine needles cluttering it, and wash the front door only when the doggie paw prints catch our eyes.

What are you willing to let go at the end of this year, to hold tightly to God's hands?

Read more:
*Psalm 148:1-6 Zechariah 10,11; Revelation 20:1-10

*From heaven the Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die. Psalm 102:19-20

*Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Moravian Prayer: As this year draws to an end, empower us to let go of all that holds us down: our burdens, our shame, and our fears. Free us, Lord and Savior, and hear us when we call. Amen.

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