This is a really sticky situation in my opinion. It feels like walking some sort of tightrope….but surely we’re making it more difficult that it should be….right?
I read this a week or so ago, but it still strikes me & I keep coming back to it in my mind. From Renewal as a Way of Life, by Richard Lovelace.
Pp84 (chapter on worldliness, emphasis mine):
[adherence to cultural codes] lowers us to thinking like the world, concentrating on law and obedience……Of course believers may want to keep certain habits out of their own behavior because of their upbringing and their preferences. And they certainly will want to avoid shocking others or causing them to stumble in any way, as Paul indicates in Romans 14 and 1 Corin. 8. Nevertheless, far from being a way to break conformity with the world, codes of outward behavior in indifferent matters are just the sort of thing the world manufactures and takes seriously. They are themselves the essence of worldliness (see Col 2:20)! If we talk grace and faith, but insist that Christians must live partly bound up in a law code, the world will not hear our message clearly. And our own spiritual lives will suffer also, as we revert to the bondage of legalism.
I think we’ve already established that I am a hopeless rule-follower. But reading this (& Col 2:20-23 …seriously, go read it) has opened my eyes to the ramifications for this way of thinking beyond my own spiritual demise. In an effort to “set myself apart” as a ‘light’…I in fact do exactly what the world expects & become no different in many eyes than a Buddhist.
I still have a terrible time avoiding making up new sets of laws to follow. Clearly there are some things to be avoided….like adultery for example. So how do I know I don’t have to wear a scarf on my head? B/c it’s culturally irrelevant? My husband swears occasionally (nothing incredibly crude, just words that are technically on the “no-no” list). I cringe deeply whenever I hear it….he knows it….and I think does it intentionally to tease me & my “rule-following nature”. Little booger.
I realize that the answer lies in Christ…focusing on Him & His goodness vs. all the sin & “bad” things I need to avoid… true holiness will be automatic since we emulate those we spend large amounts of time with…what we think about most… But my ‘worldly flesh’ likes rules & formulas. I suppose b/c then I can get the credit. And in some ways it’s easier to have a checklist of rules as a “holiness” gauge. Just like it’s easier for me to run when I know the distance and time along the way. To just go out & run without keeping track isn’t as fun b/c I don’t know “what I’ve accomplished”. So is my true joy in knowing Christ and communing with Him, or is it that I get to chart progress?
Interesting (well…sad really..) that the “worldliness” we’re (i’m) trying so desperately to avoid is the very thing we’re (I’m) attaining.