I know there are going to be some who want to pull out their Bibles and write verse after verse, exuding their scholarly knowledge in disputation to the concept that we are supposed to simply just…be like Jesus. No no – that simply cannot be. There are too many thou shalt nots and too many thou shalt’s for that to be the case.
God, in the man Christ Jesus certainly would not have inspired Peter, and Paul and other church fathers to write their epistles if we weren’t intended to follow them to the letter of the [law], and certainly, if Paul talked about clothing and women’s hair, a dividing line between real Christians and fake Christians is how they attune themselves to these standards, right?
No. Not really.
Is your Christian Walk all about being right, and proving it to other people? Is your mission to connect with people and develop friendships that could turn to witnessing about Christ, or is your purpose to bash enough people with Jesus until one submits and then, and only then, they can be your friend? Do you have to ‘perform’ to gain approval of your elders and leaders? If so, it might not be Christ’ mission you are following.
Sorry. I’m not trying to be divisive or rude, offensive or out of character. I’m just fed up with people, primarily dogmatic fundamentalists who espouse legalism and cult style leadership methods of control as the defining characteristics of what a Christian should be and look like, and what a Christian is not. Of course, these people won’t admit to their legalism, or if they do, they claim it to be a lesser part of the greater good. A means to an end, an unfortunate side effect created by keeping the doctrine ‘pure’, kind of like the rulers in antiquity accepting the mental and physical defects as a result of incest – it kept their bloodlines pure they thought, so the collateral damage was acceptable.
It may exist in the denomination, but it doesn’t define the denomination.
I could accept that line of thinking IF entire movements weren’t based on clothing standards, behavior control, coercion, manipulation and fearmongering. And when you really get down to the bottom of the entire story, it is ALWAYS about Money. Find me a legalist that doesn’t demand of you your money and absolute obedience.
“Want to find out who is in control? Find out who you can’t criticize.”
How many laws and rules did Jesus break in his attempt to love humanity? How many cleanliness laws did He break? What about the sin of mingling with Samaritans, tax collectors, and prostitutes? Gentiles? When he set the Pharisees straight on their demand to stone the adulteress, he made legalists foam at the mouth!
How about the time Jesus refused to stone the woman who broke the law and was taken in the act of adultery? (John 8) How about the time Jesus told Peter to stop calling ‘unclean’ what He called clean? (Yea – those women who cut their hair and wear pants – and those rebellious men with bears and shorts!) In that time it was shellfish, pigs, and Samaritans actually, but hey, who is keeping track?
Jesus was a really bad legalist.
What is astounding is that those who aim to always be ‘right’ are twisting the message of Jesus Christ so completely as to be completely against the message of Christ. Why is it so difficult to see? As Paul said, Grace isn’t here for sin to abound, but the point was obvious! Grace was the rule of law now (Spirit vs Law), not strict adherence to fundamental dress codes, behavior standards, church attendance, prayer logs, cameras tracking when people come and go, 12-step repentance programs, removal from serving God if you don’t dress right, etc.
As a matter of fact, Paul made it clear that if you attempt to adhere to laws, you are fallen from grace!
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. – Galatians 5:4, AMP
It is at this point, fundamentalists create two arguments. 1) There are ‘moral’ laws that supersede this message, and 2) They aren’t following the Mosaic Law, but the New Testament laws. Let me give you an example of how they ARE following Mosaic Law.
The cult I left had extreme dress codes, nearly Amish. Think, Little House on Prairie, except they had great pride and style in the women’s hair. (See my video on Jewelry Is a Sin? One Flaw of the Oneness Pentecostals for an example of this behavior.) They used Deuteronomy 22:5 as a way to explain why women can’t wear pants, which, by the law, was a Mosaic law…
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.
(Side note…pants didn’t exist until the 1700’s, so this obviously wasn’t referring to pants.)
Fundamentalists explain that when Scripture uses the word ‘abomination’, it is an eternal commandment, or law, that cannot be changed, broken or ignored. I wonder how often those people eat shrimp, salmon, bacon? Wear mixed material clothing?
And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: – Leviticus 11:10
The Letter Killeth
My point is, and my hearts intent and purpose, is that attempting always to be right – to thump people in the head with Scripture and your knowledge does not propel them towards Christ, but rather, in the many cases, away. Being that guy that runs around telling people how wrong they are only inspires hatred, division, judgmental-ism, and the pride of legalism, and more often than not, purposes people to move forward stronger in that thing the ultra-righteous religious person views as sinful.
It is that pharisee that ran the streets saying, ‘See, I’m not like that guy over there. I pray and I am more righteous than him.’ If I could equate this to my past religious affiliation, they practiced it by turning their nose up at other people (mostly women, as they bore the brunt of most of the standards, which are very chauvinistically driven) who don’t dress and live like them.
“See that girl over there? Oh my goodness..look at her wearing pants, short hair, colored her hair! Heavens to Betsy, hell will be hot for her! She should have stayed in the church.”
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” – II Corinthians 3:6
Legalism is barring people from Heaven and the grace of Jesus Christ! Too many people are hurt and turn from Christ due to these types of people who carry their Righteousness stick around, just waiting to smack someone in the head with it.
I am watching the documentary, Lord, Save us from your Followers, and in a social experiment the director went to many countries and interviewed hundreds of people. He asked them, ‘What is the first word that comes to mind when you think Christian.’ One woman’s answer fits so completely here.
“They are people that talk to you, instead of with you.”
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. – Matthew 23:13
Obedience to Christ, in the Spirit will come when you surrender to Him. Obedience to man made laws does not make you obedience to Christ, because when those man made rules change, you do too. It also makes you abhorrently obedient and dependent on that man (or woman) making the rules instead of Jesus Christ!
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. – Galatians 2:16