submitting only to Christ’s rule, not to human rule(s)

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.

Colossians 2:20-23

There is a tradition among churches and denominations of certain rules or standards which are imposed on everyone. Sometimes this is not a set rule, but just something people have grown accustomed to, so that they practice it themselves, but don’t necessarily see it as binding on others. In other cases the church itself actually sets the rule, so that certain codes have to be upheld. Oftentimes these are dress codes, as well as rules about what one can and cannot do, like on the Sabbath Day (usually Sunday in Christian traditions) or on other days as well. Perhaps television is forbidden in some, or maybe certain media venues are forbidden. Or whatever.

And this can look quite holy. Certainly good intent can be behind it, but according to Paul it plays right into the enemy’s hand. Those who have trouble submitting, or who don’t quite meet such standards can be looked down on, division can set in, all matter of wrong can emerge: pride, judgmentalism, etc. Instead we have to acknowledge that we’ve died with Christ, that our identity is in him, and that we take our directions individually and together only from him.

That means we have to pay close attention to Christ’s teaching in the gospels, his example, and how that is followed through post-Pentecost and in the letters which follow. Christ is no longer with us in person as a human on earth, but he is very present with us by and in the Holy Spirit. So as church and from that as individuals we take our cues and directions only from Christ. Not from humans. Leaders who are attentive to this can help us in this way, but we all have to be committed only to this. This is where our spiritual life comes from informing and forming all of life. In and through Jesus.

learning to live well in grace

An ongoing venture with me in which I hopefully am growing is the rejection of a spirituality based on something less than the grace of God in Jesus. The spirituality I am rejecting over time, and with more than a little help from my friends is one in which I think this or that ought to be done to maintain the highest ethical standards. The problem with that “this and that” can be that people are trampled on in the process, or hurt in a way which does not facilitate the mission we in Jesus are on- of living out and sharing the good news in Jesus.

I am not referring to compromise in sin with others. Of course what is sinful to one may not be sinful at all to another; check the passages in Paul’s writings on the weak and the strong in faith. I am referring to getting used to a different orientation altogether. I think a significant part of the problem is that we can be concerned and even bent out of shape over something which is already taken care of. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” period. Those in Christ Jesus, the passage goes on to say, follow the way of the Spirit and are enabled by the Spirit in and through Jesus and his death to fulfill the requirement of the law which is essentially love, love for God and for our neighbor. But we humans tend to want to operate in ways in which we are in charge and can understand.

Yes, discernment is important and the church together, and particularly the elders ought to be involved in that. But enter now an error, I think in many Anabaptist circles, of having an orientation which has the idea that somehow what we think as to right and wrong reaches the status of God’s will. I’m thinking of an emphasis on externalities with the worthy goal of pursuing and living out holiness. And with the idea that life should revolve around that.

Enter Jesus. He broke the rules set by men over and over again. His was a different orientation altogether, set on loving God and neighbor, on proclaiming and teaching the good news of the kingdom of God having come in him. As well as doing the works of that kingdom in the world. We need to get beyond a focus which is taken up primarily with our own eternal welfare, since that is taken care of in and through Jesus. Or beyond even the false idea that somehow our communion with God is maintained by rules we keep, as if those who do not keep them could not be in the same fellowship or communion with us in Jesus. Instead we need to become intent on an orientation of learning to follow Jesus in the way of the cross, the way of love.

This doesn’t mean we can always flaunt human rules and conventionalities, that we should never have any regard for such. There may be times and places where we need to keep such in order to live in love for God and our neighbor. What this does mean is that we ourselves are not tied down to such in our own lives. We are on mission in Jesus seeking to live fully in him and in obedience to his commands. Living out the new in Jesus in the old of this world. Together in Jesus for the world.

writing with love

Recently I was reminded, and maybe to some extent even informed about rules that none dare break for good writing. It was interesting, some of it not new to me, some of it a bit questionable in my mind. I wonder how well the Bible measures up to this criteria.

I for one am not fond of a lot of rules. I think there has to be some. There are some things in writing I won’t do no matter what. There are other things, perhaps a multitude of them, that as a rule I wouldn’t do, with possible exceptions. One possible example is the use of bad grammar, unless I think it is fitting for some reason.

In personal relationships in the body of Christ, love is said to cover over a multitude of sins. I think something of the same might be said for good writing. If the writing is done in love and from the heart, that means far more than not breaking some sort of rule here or there.

Am I being fair? And I greatly respect the people who brought this to my attention. And I really didn’t give the list the due consideration I could have that day (though I was extra busy and tired), nor did I look at it again, this morning. I have to admit, though, that I am skeptical of lists like that. One of my concerns is that one’s creativity can be stifled by trying to keep a set of rules in front of them in order to become a good writer.

Love, and do as you please, a paraphrase of what Augustine said. When I write I often have plenty of editing to do to clean up messes here and there. One doesn’t just go willy-nilly, on a kind of free for all. Of course we want to write in the best way possible. That is a part of love also. When I think of writing with love, I am thinking of both the subject matter as well as those who may read. And love ought to be our orientation always, no matter what we do. Although there may be a number of times when we’ll need to remind ourselves of that, especially over issues we write on which may hold some controversy and heat.

So my own counsel on such lists? Pay close attention, learn what you can, work at improving your writing. But then let it go, and write in and out of love. Being yourself in how you express things, and working at improving, so that others in and through Jesus may be blessed.