Christians frequently talk about grace, love, acceptance, and freedom, and indeed, these attributes are abundantly available to the person who follows Christ.
Unfortunately, however, within Christian group settings (“community” is the latest buzzword), rules abound, all the more insidious because they are never identified as rules. A believer just gets this idea, sort of, that he doesn’t measure up, that Jesus is displeased with her, and they’re on God’s disciplinary list.
If you’ve felt this way, relax, rest, and stop listening to the murmurs in the room. There really is grace, love, acceptance, and freedom in Christ, and if you want to find it, start by crossing these five psuedo-sins off your list:
There is no commandment that we must attend weekly — or multiple-times weekly — meetings, although many people like to quote Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.”
Arguably, the highly controlled, regimented functions that many people endure on Sunday mornings bear little resemblance to the early Christians meeting in the catacombs of Rome, and increasingly, more and more people are wondering why they attend what they do.
Even if you do enjoy your church experience (and through the years, we have found quirky, fun enclaves of people who give meaning to the words, “meet together”), you are not sinning if you opt to sleep in, partake of a leisurely breakfast, swing in the hammock, close your eyes, and pray.
The bonus is, if there are other people in your home, you are “meeting together” with them, something you may not do if your day is filled with song service practice, leadership meetings, small group encounters, and visitation
Not Participating in Sunday School
Sunday School, which in some circles is more compulsory than church attendance, began in the late 18th century as a literal school for working class children, who during the Industrial Revolution worked 12-hour days Monday through Saturday, and thereby had no opportunity to learn to read, write, or educate themselves beyond serfdom.
This worthy endeavor morphed into what we experience today, a segregation of ages and demographics — young marrieds here, 6th graders there, retired persons in the front foyer, children in the basement — that adds another hour of community obligation to the day of rest.
If you like it, and you’re learning from Sunday School, then participate with joy. If you’re not interested, then don’t feel like a pariah.
Thinking, or Speaking, a Negative Thought
Scripture is filled with negative statements: “The wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6: 23); “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” (Matthew 10: 35); “In this world you will have trouble,” (John 16. 33).
Just because a statement, or a thought, is negative does not mean that it is bad, and negative or positive statements — in and of themselves — do not have an innate power to influence outcomes. Believing that they do is a cornerstone of occult thought, teaching that esoteric symbolism, numerology, and energy auras are given a power that belongs to God alone.
Just Saying, “No”
There are a lot of great ministries out there, but that does not mean that you are obligated to participate in them. Saying no is especially difficult when a pastor or church leader asks you to say yes, because there is the added invocation to “obey your leaders and submit to their authority,” (Hebrews 13: 17), a verse that is trotted out as regularly as the “forsake not assembling” command.
But Bible verses are not meant to be slung about like arrows, manipulating people into doing what they do not want to do, and the same Book includes the verse, “We must obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5: 29).
You have specific gifts and passions, along with limitations on your time, energy, and financial resources: obey God, rather than men, in how you will use them.
Disagreeing with Your Pastor (or Other Leader)
The Bereans of the Apostle Paul’s day were considered of “more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17: 11)
Paul was self-confident enough in himself and in Christ to be unoffended by this practice, and the leaders in your church should be as well. If a lesson or lecture seems specious or unsound (the semi-annual “good stewards should tithe thusly” sermons come to mind), then get out that Bible and start reading.
Better yet, make sure that you’re reading Scripture – at home and on your own — on a regular basis so that by holding to His teaching, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8: 31).
Grace, love, acceptance, and freedom are more than words or idle promies: they are truths that we can experience in our Christian walk. Let’s start taking them seriously.
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