Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Legalistic Lines

Where is the line? Without a doubt, I am a black and white opinion type. People who like to say the Bible has grey areas are generally making excuses for choosing their own will and not God's. But there are so many differences from church to church over things like dress, dating/courtship, education, music, etc. Is there a wrong and a right on these issues?

Well, of course there is. The black and white of each issue can be found in scriptures; even if it isn't written as 'thou shalt not' we are responsible for knowing how God would have us live, act and witness in this world.

Take the issue of dress as an example. Modest dress is clearly pointed out as a must for women (1 Timothy 2:9), that is the black and white of the issue. The application of this in our lives does engulf some personal preference. I am the first to confess that if my pastor stood before us Sunday morning and said that all female members would be expected to wear ankle length, loose fitted dresses that were absent from any embellishment or style - I would laugh out loud in rebellion (not a great reaction to authority but I'm just being honest!).

In my church, the women do wear a skirt when serving (nursery/craft class, giving testimony, leading a ladies' study). The leadership of our church has set this as a standard for positions of serving - like a uniform - the men wear jackets and ties for serving. For the most part, I wear a skirt when I am simply attending, too. The idea behind this practice is simply that I want to look my best when I attend God's house and I want to be ready to serve if I am needed.

Having said that, there are plenty of dresses and skirts that do not fit under the term 'modest'. Some of these are seen at church, too. So modesty is not about the type of clothing, it is about how and why the clothing is worn. Does the outfit bring to mind the words 'decent', 'honourable', and 'virtuous'? OR does it say 'proud', 'conceited' and 'vain'? (Regardless of some of the arguments I have heard, the difference in these terms is plain. Any particular article of clothing can be worn modestly or immodestly - but that is another subject - let me focus.)

So where is the line between biblical and legalistic? That line is only found in our individual reasons for the decisions we make. Are we following a dress code to please people or God? Are we jumping on an issue bandwagon without seeking God's wisdom? If the way we dress is only an opinion, (or to be part of the church crowd), rather than a conviction - that makes it legalistic; it will be short lived.

This particular example of dress is one of the simpler issues to discern. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to delve into the courtship controversy. For now, I'll leave the legalism argument with my black and white response: know why you do it; know why you believe it; know why God would have you do either!

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15


D and S said...

Hi-I came across your blog from MSM. I agree whole-heartedly with this issue. I would like to add to that another wrong reason for doing something would be for ourself too. So much of today's world revolves around "Me", failing to see how it affects others around them like the modesty issue. Some girls would say that they wore something because they liked it. Well, is it causing someone else to sin? Then they need to take that into consideration! Great blog. I thoroughly enjoy it!


Rhonda said...

I don't really like the use of the term "legalism" because that refers to trying to appease God by following the Law, something we know cannnot and should not be done.
I do however agree with your idea of absolutes, black and white. The Bible is often very clear. The problem is that we often don't really want to know what it says.

In the issue of modesty and clothing, one aspect is very often left out. Shamefacedness. We don't use the term. Modesty is somewhat vague, shamefacedness is not. To me, shamefacedness is the opposity of s#xy. If we all took a good look at ourselves and our clothing and held them up to a standard of shamefacedness, we'd more likely be pleasing to God.
God bless!