In my continued study for this Sunday’s sermon from Colossians 2:8-23, I have realized something that I have found to be ironic.
Over the course of the last few years, in a few states (typically in the southern region of the country), there has either been legislation proposed or ballot measures that stated that Sharia Law, the religious code of Islam, would be banned from being used to shape legislation and such.
Here’s the irony. The groups which are behind these pieces of legislation and ballot measures typically have many who are of a more conservative Christian background. They don’t want the religious code of another faith dictating what can or cannot be done in society. But isn’t that exactly what has occurred throughout the history of this country, but not because of Sharia Law, but because of Christian “rules” or “code of behavior”?
For example, for many years it was taught and pervasive in this country that certain activities were not to occur on Sunday. Why? Because Sunday was the “Christian Sabbath” and there were rules (man-made albeit wrapped in “biblical” support) about what could be done on that day.
How much controversy was created when stores in this country decided to stay open on Sunday when before they would stay closed because that was the cultural standard based upon Sunday being the “Christian Sabbath?”
I remember while in college (a more conservative Christian college) that we were told that we should refrain from shopping on Sundays and, if possible, refrain from working at a job as well because these were activities that were not to occur on Sunday, the “Christian Sabbath.” (I must admit I found it contradictory and hypocritical that, even though the college had this stance, they required students to work in the dining hall on Sundays so the student body could eat.)
There were other activities that were frowned upon on the “Christian Sabbath.” Faculty members of another local seminary in the city where I went to seminary were friends with my seminary advisor. Together, they would take a yearly trip to Canada to go fishing. When Dr. Hoch (my advisor) would get ready to go fishing on Sunday, they would tell him that it wasn’t proper to fish on Sundays. He went anyway. What’s ironic is that when he returned from fishing, he found his buddies sitting at the kitchen table playing cards, smoking cigars and drinking. Interesting what is and isn’t allowed.
It’s ironic that these groups don’t want Sharia Law to become influential in what is allow to occur in society, but there isn’t the same concern with practices which are or are not allowed being shaped by what Christian groups judge as appropriate or inappropriate. This judgment comes concerning food, drink or religious observances of a feast, season or day. “Therefore, let no one judge you regarding food or drink or in respect of a feast or new moon or a Sabbath.”
It is my belief that Paul taught that “religious code/regulations” and Christianity were in direct opposition with each other. That is why he says in Colossians 2:20ff, “If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as if alive in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances? Do not handle nor taste nor touch, (regarding things which are all to perish when used) according to the commandments and teachings of men?“
Furthermore, Paul wrote to the Roman believers this in chapter 14: “One believes that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables. He who eats, let him not despise him who does not eat; and he who does not eat, let him not judge him who eats for God has received him. Who are you who judge another’s household servant? To his own master he stands of falls; and he will be made to stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One judges one day above another; another judges every day alike. Let each be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
This judging and looking down upon others or even thinking less of people for actions in which we would do the opposite isn’t just on a large-scale level; it’s also on a small-scale level.
In my current congregation, a common and long-practiced part of worship is the congregational recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the conclusion of the pastoral prayer. I know there are at least a few who do not participate in saying this because, for them, and they are persuaded in their mind of this, this weekly repetition is meaningless. So they do not recite it.
I know of one instance when a person who does recite it criticized one who did not. That criticism is wrong and sinful, being directly against Paul’s teaching from Romans 14 and Colossians 2. One is fully persuaded in his/her mind one way; another is persuaded the opposite way. And that’s fine. For either to criticize the other is wrong and is in danger of starting down the slippery slope toward making Christianity into nothing more than a religion with a code of conduct, rules and regulations.
μὴ γένοιτο (KJV – God forbid!). Actual translation: May it never be so.