Has the pendulum swung too far…again
This is a question I have been asking myself lately. The pendulum, however, is my own internal one, that which holds the plumb line of standards in place.
I beg the question because I have noticed in recent years, the adaptation of a doctrine of compromise
When my generation were all young kids, those in the church were most likely indoctrinated with legalism and, as a result, fundamentalism.
What felt like rules for the sake of rules, like no dancing, complete abstention from alcohol, and even the forbiddance of women from wearing jeans, birthed a generation which asked the question “why,” and when they realized that dancing was fun and they were able to partake without stumbling, it begged the question of “what else are we being told we shouldn’t do that maybe we could.”
So now, here we are, it’s 2016. Pastors have tattoos, we carry our coffee into the sanctuary worship center, not only do women wear jeans, we darn well wear whatever we feel like it…and so do men, Bible study small groups serve alcoholic beverages, and Christian culture has grown into one of acceptance and tolerance.
We have progressed. What was once fire and brimstone, finger pointing and name calling now promotes acceptance, love, and understanding of people where they are.
I think many people would argue that the pendulum in our parents’ era, and, especially our parent’s parents’ era had swung way too far to the right and the pull toward the middle was healthy.
And yet, here I am, questioning if I have become far too left of center.
At what point will I know, will we know, if we’ve gone too far?
The Bible teaches we are to be in the world and not of the world[i]. So what does that look like? Does that mean it’s okay to be at the bar but not partake? Or partake, but not too much? Where is the boundary?
What about over indulgence in food?
Here’s my dilemma: if we cause another person to stumble by our actions, then we are at fault, right?
So, though we have the freedom to wear whatever we want, is it okay for a woman to wear a low-cut shirt and sit front row in church, right in plain sight for the pastor to have to be distracted by the whole service?
Though we have the freedom to eat and drink, is it okay for someone to have way too much of either and behave completely out of line with scripture, but justify it with forgiveness and grace, only to repeat the same behavior the following weekend?
The question is, when is enough, enough? When is too far, too far?
This isn’t a question I can answer for you, it is simply a question I have been asking myself.
Jesus is revealing to me what parts of me are becoming a distraction or stumbling block in which I need to do away with for a time until I can become a better steward of these areas.
As the Lord has been working on my heart, He has directed me to scriptures such as, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.[ii]” And, “I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it[iii],” and further still, “If you right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out, and if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away[iv].”
These words are not Old Testament law. These are the words of Jesus.
And when I read those, I’m cut to the core, straight through the marrow. And it makes me question things.
Things like, what kind of movies and music I expose myself to. The kind of humor or language I share with friends. What things I look to for comfort when I should be going to God first. How I spend my time and money. And, for me at least, what am I spending the majority of my time on a daily basis thinking about.
It’s interesting. In my many years of being a Christian, I feel like I’m finally coming to a place where I am so fully aware of my desperate need for grace.
Consequently enough, I then realize how I’ve cheapened it through justification.
It’s so easy to compromise and make excuses because you know you have forgiveness waiting for you on the other side of that poor decision.
Something else I have seen in my own life, as well as the lives of those close to me is the after effects of trials, pain, and heartache. We become calloused and maybe even rebellious, with an attitude of, “Well God, I tried things Your way and look where that got me.” This tells me that maybe our motives for living a righteous life are a little…off. If we truly examine ourselves, are walking the straight and narrow because of what we believe God will reward us with as a result, or are we walking it because of our unwavering love for Christ, knowing that leading the life that He has called us to will honor Him?
After all, my Bible says it “rains on the righteous and the unrighteous[v].”
So maybe the real question we must ask ourselves is not so much, “what have I adapted to that I shouldn’t,” but rather why?
If it is so easy for us to choose the path that is wide, that tells me that we don’t really believe God. Not really.
Rather we believe the lies, “Did God really say that[vi]?”
It is up to us to answer with, “Yes, yes He did.”
So, again, I’m not pointing fingers or saying one thing is bad and one thing isn’t. After all, I don a tattoo on my right foot as a personal reminder of one of my favorite stories in scripture, and I’m sure many Christians would condemn me for that.
The purpose of this is to inspire you to take your own personal inventory.
What do you feel you have compromised on? Where have you become too lax? Where are you taking God’s grace for granted by repeatedly involving yourself in a behavior you know you shouldn’t?
Who knows how or when the pendulum will swing in our society. I truly believe a lot of the change that happened in the Church since I was young has been for the better. Consequently enough, one of those changes is that which prompts one to ask questions and figure out why they believe what they believe. It is that philosophy that has brought me to this place of self-assessment, realizing there are some things I’ve been too lax on and want to change so that I better exemplify Christ.
The question is: what is it for you?
After you ask this question and are honest with yourself, don’t sit in condemnation. Admit to yourself and to God where you need help, ask for forgiveness, then hold fast to His promise that, because Jesus died on the cross for our past, our present, and our future, we can rest in the knowledge that we can Begin Again.
[i] 1 John 2:15, John 15:9, James 4:4, & Romans 12:2
[ii] Matthew 5:48
[iii] Matthew 5:17
[iv] Matthew 5:29-30
[v] Matthew 5:45
[vi] Genesis 3:1