I’ve been wondering lately about growing up. Not passing chronological years so much as leaving behind the toddler in my spirit to become an adult Christian. It isn’t achieved by happenstance.
Lately I’ve heard more than one debate about tithing or entertainment choices or politics that have fueled high emotions and high frustration. Interestingly, no one could seem to find that one verse in any of the above to prove the point. It got me thinking; what are the rules of Christianity?
I’ll step up to admit that I’ve often fallen back to a Christianity of minimal requirements. If you’re in an organized church for long enough, it becomes easy to do.
Side note: This is not a criticism of the church. You need to go to church!
Moving along. In any organization something of a subculture will develop, be it co-workers, family or church-goers. We all develop a sort of language, an understanding of commonalities, and the guiding principles of behavior that make us a part of the group.
It’s much like going to kindergarten. Do you remember that book from a few years ago, All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten (Robert Fulghum)? That’s really the truth of Christian growth. Think about kindergarten for a moment. Lots of rules. Lots of grown-ups standing by with hands on instructions. Stand here. Make a straight line. Eyes front. Hands to yourself. Raise your hand to speak. Don’t eat the glue. Etc.
Now my kids are approaching graduation from high school. I myself graduated nursing school a few years ago. You don’t hear those kind of instructions in high school and beyond. If a high-schooler in art class must be instructed not to paint his neighbor’s eye lids; that student has some issues that need immediate intervention.
So at the start of entrance into the group, we need those rules and guidelines. We come with no baseline of understanding and someone has to take responsibility to teach us how to conduct ourselves. What are the values of the group? What are the values of the church? Rules are those guidelines. But there is a fundamental flaw in the system. The person making the rules has to know the values he/she is trying to instill. If not, you promote only rules and not values. And you end up eating paste in your senior year of high school. And you are not invited to college. And your chances of success become slimmer as your frustration grows greater. Read any social commentary on adolescents; the ones who fail to understand and embrace their education become the ones who give up. The rebels. The disenfranchised.
There are too many disenfranchised Christians out there. These folks have been introduced to a system of rules they never matured beyond or they never got that solid foundation of values to promote healthy growth. Either way, they didn’t have a good kindergarten experience and it’s dragging them down instead of pushing them forward.
Where does this apply to church or Christianity? You can’t grow up on rules only. The rules are the kindergarten of Christianity. It was the before of the Old Testament without the after of the cross. It’s not the whole story and it’s just not enough.
So throw away the rules? No. Live and die by the law? No. Ready for the golden ticket? As my children like to say...
Yup, it’s your own responsibility. To not just find the one verse to attach a rule to but to understand the depth of the entire gospel. To reach further than the black and white. To reject the Christianity of minimal requirements. To grow up.
I know of a recent conversation about tithing. Tithing means 10% given to the church/tabernacle/temple. Folks wanted New Testament proof that they had to do it. One verse in black in white that requires it. Christianity of minimal requirements. There is not a New Testament verse that demands your 10%. There are just a whole stinking bunch that require 100% of your heart. Let me tell you, 10% of your wallet is easier to part with.
When your whole heart is in it; you want to give more than the minimum. You respond with such awe and gratitude and love that you want to give your money, your time, your home, your possessions and then some more of your money.
Jesus pretty much said, “What does your heart say?” And then He taught that your actions would reveal your heart.
My easily offended, slow to forgive, tight-fisted, judgmental, self-righteous, pious, looking for a reason not to, Christianity of minimal requirements reveals my heart? Ouch.
It appears that even if I put my 10% in the bucket, I may not be the grown-up Christian I thought I was.
Christianity of Minimal Requirement or Christianity of Maximum Response.
Rules or relationship?
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.