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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

The Statement No Christian Should Make

Free yourself from the words "should," "must," and "ought," and focus on grace. Eyrie, original painting and licensed print by Steve Henderson.

Free yourself from the words “should,” “must,” and “ought,” and focus on grace. Eyrie, original painting and licensed print by Steve Henderson.

As a Christian and a human being, I avoid the word “should,” because it’s generally used by Person A against Person B, to get Person B to do what Person A wants. So when I use it, I’m serious.

And I’m serious about a sentence that Christians regularly bandy about as a means to prove that they are right and you are wrong, and whatever it is you’re doing of which they disapprove, you need to stop — right now.

It’s an If/Then sentence, one of the most difficult to argue against:

“If the Holy Spirit really lives within you, Then you won’t swear/drink/smoke/wear skimpy tops/let your bra strap show/bite your nails.” I mentioned this concept in an earlier post, The Sinless Christian, and the ultimate destination that this sentence takes you is here:

“If the Holy Spirit really lives within you, Then you won’t sin.”

How do you argue against this? I mean, it sort of makes sense, because isn’t proof that Christ lives within us our changed lives? And if we’re still — doing whatever — how have we changed?

Smoking Isn’t a Sin

First of all, let’s establish ground rules: Smoking isn’t a sin. Neither is letting your bra strap show. This is nitpicking. If we want to talk about purging sin from our lives, let’s haul out the real ones: sexual immorality; impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like, and please don’t argue with me; take it up with Paul in Galatians 5:19-21.

You’ll notice I, not Paul, italicized a few: I chose these specifically because they’re hard to spot, difficult to point to, and all too frequently indulged in by

Even the simplest subject matter is more complex than we realize. Grace is simple, yet profound. Purple Iris original watercolor by Steve Henderson.

Even the simplest subject matter is more complex than we realize. Grace is simple, yet profound. Purple Iris original watercolor by Steve Henderson.

the very best of us. Because you overhear me swear, you nail me, but behind my sweet smile, you’ll never read my black thoughts about you — so when do I sin?

As far as between you and me, it ultimately doesn’t matter. My Christianity is between me and God, as yours is between you and Him — neither one of us needs each other shaking our fingers in one another’s faces, because when we do, we get our eyes off of the thing that matters:

Our relationship with Christ.

“Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature,” Paul tells us in Galatians 5:19. Notice that he is not saying, If you live by the Spirit, Then you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

Rules? Or Grace?

Rather, he is encouraging us to look to Christ, not a series of rules, as we walk with the Holy Spirit within us, because ” . . . if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” Remember, once you’re under the law, you’re in it for the whole thing, baby, so why even start?

In other words, we do not need to worry about what we “should” and “should not” do. Instead, we focus on the perfection, beauty, grace and mercy of our Savior and strive to please Him because He loves us (that comes first) and we love Him (that comes second). And when this is our primary focus, the thing that we all worry about — our sin issues — takes care of itself, because God takes care of it inside of us, for us.

Both ways — with the Law (by focusing on following the rules) or with faith (by following the Savior) — we are striving to accomplish the same thing, but it’s only with faith that we’ll actually get it done.

Not instantaneously, not perfectly, and not in our lifetime down here — let’s remember that when we hobnob with one another — but every day, as we fall more insanely in love with the Person who loves us more than we can possibly imagine, we start to look, and act, a little bit more like Him.

 

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, Caleb — and it’s wonderful that we can disagree!

    Actually, I do believe in doing what we can do to redeem a brother or sister, but think that it needs to be done remarkably sensibly, sensitively, and tactfully — and sometimes, that means being quiet, praying, and just loving. Which is what you bring about in your penultimate paragraph, and it can’t be emphasized enough.

    When we focus on grace, the “shoulds” and the “should nots” take care of themselves — but not the other way around. Too often, in establishment Christianity, we are focusing on that other way around. That’s man’s doctrine, as you observe — the truth can be just one degree off, but if your journey is long enough, one degree can get a person off the mark!

  • http://CalebStrong.Org CalebStrong_Org

    Your article is well written and a great blessing to read. The concept of OUR legalistic preferences and what I term “man’s doctrine” getting in the way of God’s grace is ridiculous. It is wonderful to see I do disagree with one point you make and that is “we do not need to worry about what we “should” and “should not” do”…

    We are definitively called to correct our brothers and sisters when they are in blatant sin.

    Jesus himself tells us that we are to try to restore a “brother” who has sinned (Matthew 18:15-17) Galatians 5 and 6 Paul talks about restoring a brother or sister who have sinned and redeeming them if possible.

    This MUST all within the spirit of love, and redemption to GOD’s Law and not man’s rules. However, the point is, we ARE to be involved in each other’s relationship with Jesus. That is the base for accountability within the family of Christ.

    Thanks for the article.

    CalebStrong.Org
    As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Pro 27:17

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  • http://thiswomanwrites.areavoices.com/ Carolyn Henderson

    Kim — God’s people, women and men, salt the world with the seasoning of His grace and love. Admittedly, I find myself feeling a bit peppery now and then, but looking back over the last eight years of an unusual life journey, I marvel at how He has gentled me, brought me to His feet, loved me as a parent loves a child.

  • http://thiswomanwrites.areavoices.com/ Carolyn Henderson

    You are welcome, Jackie. We do need one daily, don’t we, especially as we are assaulted by so many distorted messages, from all around us. I think that’s why I like knitting — it’s a quiet activity that allows my brain to gently work around thoughts and meditations, in between, Knit 1, Purl 3, Knit, Knit, Knit.

  • http://www.jldart.com Jackie Davidson

    Thank you, Carolyn for that timely reminder. I need one daily…

  • http://kimbennett.blogspot.com Kim

    Amen! Thank God for the woman of God…

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