Feb 2, 2006

Church--Further Musings on Halloween & Other Stuff...

I want to clarify my remarks on Halloween. The thing I found ridiculous is that because one person chooses not to take part in Halloween, the other felt the need to explain, apologize or justify her display of the holiday decorations. And I can't say for sure, but I would bet that if she'd thought about it, she'd have hidden the decorations so person number one wouldn't see them. Not out of consideration, but to save face. Over painted pumpkins.

I’m not saying that you have to participate or not participate in such things. While I do the trick-or-treating festivities, I have good friends who choose not to, and for good reason. Neither of us is more or less Godly because of it. I think this and other "minor doctrines" can only be approached from a viewpoint of freedom in Christ, meaning freedom to do or not do as God leads us.

It can be a tricky task to convey this in a nutshell...

So, major doctrines--our need for salvation. Christ's death and resurrection to pay the penalty for our sins. Salvation by grace, and not by any action or merit on our part. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. There are probably more, but those are the biggies that come to mind. God makes the biggies clear in the Bible. These are a matter of black-and-white--no grey areas about them.

Minor doctrines on the other hand--geez, where to begin. Dancing, alcohol, playing cards (gambling), church membership, tithes and offerings, church attendance, grooming & appearance, entertainment, holidays...some or all of these have some sort of reference in the Bible, but I believe they fall under freedom in Christ.

Some are addressed under the Old Covenant in the Old Testament, but it would seem that when Christ's death did away with the Law, that included all of the requirements and such in the Law. Tithing, for example. In the Old Testament, the Israelites lived more or less under a theocracy. Their tithing was something akin to the federal and state taxes we pay to fund the various programs that keep things running and help needy people; or attempt to, anyway. It was mandated then, as taxes are mandated now.

Does that mean we give nothing to church? Um, probably not. In the New Testament we are told to give freely, sacrificially, and joyfully. Ye olde "10% of the gross" guideline? Some find it cutesy-foo-foo to say that you need to calculate your giving before taxes so God will help you out when it comes time to do your taxes, implying that if you give more then God will give you a bigger refund. Of course there's nothing wrong with giving 10% of your gross income, per se, unless it is preached as the only correct way to give.

Listen for God’s urging and give as much as He prompts you. True, it could be less than 10%. But it could also be more. If you're in a church body that you love and believe in, it's entirely possible that you'll find yourself wanting to give as much as you possibly can. Guess where that desire comes from? Or rather, guess who gives us that desire??

Other topics were discussed in the New Testament which I believe do leave room for cultural interpretation. I know, I know, this is one of the biggest cop-outs people use when they want to just disregard scripture. But really, I think there's room for serious insight when you read certain passages in a cultural light and observe the spirit behind what God is saying.

Take, for example, the passage about women not braiding their hair. Really? I can curl my hair, pull it back, or put teeny flowers in it, but I can't braid it? Rats. Does it include French braids? What about fishtail braids? What if I just do one big braid, as opposed to a head full of teeny-tiny braids? And can girls wear little pigtail-braids? And the God who said this is the same God, by the way, who gave explicit instructions to Solomon for a glorious temple…the same God who created and loves beauty. So is beauty OK, or do we have to pretend we don’t notice or care about it? Or is there something inherently wrong with the shape of a braid?

A friend once pointed something out...when the Bible was written, personal hygiene was much different than it is now. Back then, bathing was much, much less frequent, and they definitely didn't have Wal-Mart in every town. If you're not bathing as often and you can't just pop in to pick up a bottle of shampoo & cream rinse, how much more difficult will it be to wash, comb, and style your hair? How much more time would it take? I'm guessing that sort of thing would be limited to royalty and the rich who had both the time and money to spare for such luxury. For most people, it would be incredibly frivolous. I believe God is saying hey, don’t be preoccupied with your outward appearance at the expense of living this life. It's not really about hair, it's about your heart's focus.

Two examples, and admittedly this is my opinion on these things, as opposed to solid fact. Plenty of Godly people have totally different views, which I think is the whole point—we all have the same freedom to do or not do as God leads us.

Up next--control vs. relationship in church and in life. Which of course is something I never struggle with, I just want to help you all see the light...

No comments: