Want to take an exercise of futility with me? Just go to your browser of choice, choosing your search engine of choice, and ask the question, ‘Is it ok for Christians to…’ and let Auto-Fill do the rest. You’ll find everything from the normals, like alcohol, tattoos, and cigarettes, to the absolutely insane such as couples cuddling or kissing, using Hookah, or…
But there is no surprise in this – when within the first decades and century of the Christian faith we have documented arguments between church leaders of what was acceptable, what wasn’t, what standard is the Gentile church held accountable to – should the Law of Moses be kept…and more. This is nothing new – but I think the degree of stupidity has increased over the centuries.
Look – leadership literally requires followers – without followers there would be no need for leaders, and without leaders, there is no direction for followers. Yet – it seems as if the extreme has taken place and certainly, this is nothing new. The extreme is that somehow, people have lost the ability to make logical and conclusive decisions for themselves so that every decision made (or conscience prick) is made or salved by the whim of another Google.come personality. (Which could include ME!)
I can’t answer if this is simply because as humans we are conditioned to be used to being told ‘what to do’, if it is because critical thinking is/has been discouraged, or the simple act of curiosity has lead to indecision – but whatever the cause, it is the boon of search engines and maniacal leaders who postulate for authoritative control over other human beings, and the bane of individuality and what the Christian Community would call ‘being led of the Spirit’.
We find this ‘Googling‘ cropping up in the early days of Christ’ ministry when His disciples ask, “What is the greatest of all the commandments?”, or in modern (EDDV English Dumbed-Down Version?) vernacular, “What’s the important things I can’t do? Can I get a tattoo or what?” (Matthew 22:36-40)
And to be honest – I think I know why it happens. I know, I know – I just got done saying ‘I can’t answer …” two paragraphs ago, which would classify me as an unstable witness in the court of law…But to be honest, I said that for a reason. I can see and recognize the circumstances taking place, and factors that may attribute to it, but I can’t for the life me of figure out why people of Faith purposefully sit in this dilemma day after day, and year after year, hoping the next Televangelist (or local pastor) will more clearly answer it for them and close the case. (Or quietly hope they don’t criticize that which you just did…)
What Can/Can’t I do?
The short answer? That’s up to you.
Oh my gosh! I know – what the heck did I just say? In two sentences I’ve condemned myself before the court of conservative Christianity for saying it’s up to you and ‘heck’ all at the same time. But honestly, humor (or sarcasm) aside, the reality remains true. Let me demonstrate;
“If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” ~ James 1:5, AMP
“As for you, the anointing [the special gift, the preparation] which you received from Him remains [permanently] in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But just as His anointing teaches you [giving you insight through the presence of the Holy Spirit] about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as His anointing has taught you, you must remain in Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him].” ~ 1 John 2:27, AMP
“The faith which you have [that gives you freedom of choice], have as your own conviction before God [just keep it between yourself and God, seeking His will]. Happy is he who has no reason to condemn himself for what he approves.” ~ Romans 14:22, AMP
Catching the trend here? If you have to google, ‘Can I …’, start with the fact that you seemingly lack wisdom, so seek God (presumably via the Bible and prayer) for your answer. Next, realize that every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a Universal Life Church ordination (oops, that’s me!) doesn’t have all the answers for you, and let the Spirit (personal conviction) sift through your conscience instead of the next guy with ‘Rev.’ in front of his name.
All of that being fleshed out, have it as your own choice and conviction with God, being happy (not condemned) in that thing you allow yourself, so long as it doesn’t violate the two aforementioned standards. 1) Alignment with God’s Word and Spirit, and 2) You’re Own Conscience.
Oh – but Brother Ralph… what if I feel no conviction against Adultery? Refer to point #1.
But, hey, what if there is nothing in God’s word about it? Refer to point #2.
So you still aren’t sure?
Now is the time to visit Pastor so and so, or ask Sister so and so, and seek counsel from Rev. so and so. Line all of that up with Scripture, and evidence, and reasoning, and prayer, and so forth. Why?
Early Church Teaching
It is interesting, that we have a direct reference in Scripture, multiple times, to what we ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ do. And we ignore them all and continue asking, ‘What can I can or cannot do? Please tell me!’ Yet, Paul and Barnabas, confronted with Jewish New Testament believers fought this very same fight!
My concern was because of the false brothers [those people masquerading as Christians] who had been secretly smuggled in [to the community of believers]. They had slipped in to spy on the freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us back into bondage [under the Law of Moses]. ~ Galatians 2:4, AMP
Here we see the example of false teachers coming into the church with a legalistic purpose trying to revert the body back from Grace into the Law of Moses. And you know what else happened in their day? Certainly, they didn’t have the same Progressive/Liberal vs. Fundamental/Conservative divide we do today…
For certain people have crept in unnoticed [just as if they were sneaking in by a side door]. They are ungodly persons whose condemnation was predicted long ago, for they distort the grace of our God into decadence and immoral freedom [viewing it as an opportunity to do whatever they want], and deny and disown our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~ Jude 1:4, AMP
And Paul, makes a pretty declarative statement later, when he in 21st Century terms, says I can do what I want to!
“Everything is permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything [and brought under its power, allowing it to control me].” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:12,12 AMP
In other words, you can do whatever you want to do – but you maybe shouldn’t do everything you are free to do! All things, as speaking of the Old Testament law – what foods you can eat, wearing clothes/linen of mixed fabrics, mixing with Samaritans and Gentiles… it was ALL clean now. God made this clear to Peter in Acts 10 and his calling to Cornelius. But that doesn’t mean all things SHOULD be done.
And finally – we know that early historical Apostolic and Church fathers still very much believed in moral purity, holy (righteous living as directed by the Spirit of God) and, what the conscience tells you, which we know was a valuable tool, otherwise there would have been no need to talk about having a seared (immune, dormant and ineffective) conscience. (1 Timothy 4:2)
The bottom line is the workings of the Holy Spirit and the Words of Christ. That is our authority and the conclusion of our conversations. Take for instance the great debate of legalism encroaching the Church in Acts 15.
To keep it brief, the narrative is this – Paul takes Barnabas to Jerusalem because they had run into Jewish believers who were still in the field teaching Christians that they had to obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved. Acts 15:1.
After making their case before the council of the Gospel of Grace, even then Pharisees in the camp stood up and said the Gentiles MUST be circumcised! Acts 15:5. And after long debates, Peter again reiterates the story of Acts 10 and the salvation of Cornelius, how that he was saved by Grace and received the promises of God and yet…he wasn’t circumcised. And so thus, after a great debate in the senate courts of the New Testament Church, the agreement was struck. It was Grace all the way.
By verse 19, James, the brother of Jesus declared the judgment that NO other burden would or should be placed upon the Gentiles, but these necessary things. So they selected brethren to take letters from the council and to disperse them amongst the churches of the time, saying,
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place on you any greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from [consuming] blood, and from [eating the meat of] things that have been strangled, and from sexual impurity. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. Farewell.” ~ Acts 15:28,29 AMP
But the most conclusive note inside this passage is the reference to the real conscience of our souls; ‘For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit…’ While it still took a council of elders and leaders to finalize their conclusion, they put the deciding weight on the unction of the Spirit. And this is the conclusion of this article. What can a Christian do? Seek the Spirit for your answer. After all, He IS the Spirit, and Author, of the Law.
Bottom line answer to ‘What can a Christian do’, is whether or not what you are doing can continue to be done while simultaneously loving, fully loving, your neighbor, and family, and neighbor.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” ~ 1 Peter 4:8
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” ~ Proverbs 10:12
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.” ~ 1 John 4:18-19
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” ~ John 5:12