Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Straining gnats, Swallowing Camels"

"Free from the law--O happy condition!
Jesus has bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace has redeemed us once for all."
P.P Bliss

Today will be my final installment in this little series about Spiritual Abuse.
This has been such a burden on my heart in recent months as I've become more aware of what this actually looks like in comparison to our loving, gracious, Heavenly Father.
I love the title (that came straight from the book I've been referencing!), and have found this topic particularly helpful in spotting a religious system that is "Pharisaical" and potentially abusive.

Jesus Himself had a lot to say to the Pharisees.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
For you tithe mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law:
justice and mercy and faithfulness;
but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Matthew 23:23, 24"

"Under Levitical law, both the camel and the gnat were considered ceremonially unclean.
Obviously, it was easier to avoid swallowing a camel than a gnat.
Gnats were a tougher matter.  You had to work to avoid them.
Bugs were everywhere.  In the making of wine, for instance, there was no refrigeration, no filtering system, and the pressing of grapes was done by foot in large, open vats.
A significant number of "unclean" guests made their way into the wine.  Still pretending they could avoid any unclean intrusion, the Pharisees sifted their wine through their teeth and then picked out the bugs with their fingers.  The meaning of Jesus' confrontation could not be lost on them.
'You put incredible amounts of energy into things of little consequence (dill, mint, and cummin),
but you swallow the camel (immorality, injustice, lying, hypocrisy).
You have inverted spiritual values.'"

If I've seen it once, I've seen it a thousand times.
Listening to southern gospel music (which actually takes the work of Christ too lightly and has too contemporary of a beat) is considered unacceptable but having a lack of discipline with your health and being a glutton is completely overlooked.
Going to the movies requires repentance and a trip to the altar on Sunday morning, but treating your wife like a business partner or your hired maid (complete with derogatory jokes and comments) is considered funny.
Wearing a suit and tie (for men) or certain length of dress/skirt (for women) is mandatory for acceptable Christianity, but having a closet sexual addiction (pornography, molesting young girls in the church) is never addressed or "swept under the rug."

"In the church where I (David Johnson) grew up, we very carefully monitored external behaviors, carefully sifting out even such 'evils' as bowling.  I used to wonder why bowling so evil, while being a dried-up old sourpuss was okay.  Having long hair, for men, was definitely a sign that you were damned to hell, but malicious gossip was no big deal."

Are you a part of a "church" that has a lengthy list of "unspoken" rules you have to follow if you're to be considered a "good Christian?"   Don't get me wrong here.  It is important to follow scriptural guidelines and principles when it comes to our daily life.  I'm not dismissing the Ten Commandments nor the commands in scripture that God has laid out for all believers to live obedient and holy lives.  
Lives separate....set apart....for Him.
But this thing of man made rules that have been passed down through the years, that add weight to "religion," weight that Jesus Christ never intended for us to have to bear.
His death was meant to set us FREE from all the laws.....not strap us down.
Fill us with joy.....not to burden us.
Surely we all understand that we are not meant to take advantage of this freedom:

"What then?  shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?
God forbid.
Romans 6:15"

But surely we need to understand that "walking the walk, and talking the talk" do not make us more acceptable in God's sight.....only in the sight of  "Christians."

"When all is said and done, abusive spirituality is more interested in supporting doctrines (spiritual mindsets, mentalities, ways of viewing God) than in supporting people.
It is not interested in learning the true conditions in which God builds a living relationship with people -- by grace, for free, to become a wellspring of inner spiritual resource.  For God Himself is interested in men and women finding the right way to connect with and draw life from Him."

(All quotes taken from "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen)

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