“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” John 15:10
I begin by merely stating the obvious: laws are critical to a peaceful and orderly society. Whether you subscribe to the philosophy at law of ‘peace, order, and good government’, such as Canada does, or ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’, as in the United States, if there were no rules or laws, iniquity would abound and evil would prevail, and your life would cease to continue as you now know it. Really, nobody in their right mind would want to live in that type of society, but sadly, here in Canada, it seems that our Senators have agreed and passed a bill that would see a long time illegal and illicit substance finally made legal for recreational use. This substance, made legal in other states and countries of the world, has foisted great personal harm and cost to those countries, but these obvious warnings seem to have made no difference to our legislative body, whom are supposed to be ordered to protect our country and its citizens. And so, we decline as a decent and orderly society just that much more. But, what about law and order in the church?
I love a church with rules! And, I love a church with a pastor chosen especially for it that loves order and knows how to keep it, not by playing politics, not by respect of persons, but through good biblical judgment. I love it when I see the people of the church, who know and love their Bibles, identify with the rules in the church and recognize that no one has stepped over their bounds to implement them; the rule did not come from the man, it came from a precept taught in the scriptures. For instance, by “rules”, I do not mean ones that are not taught by precept in the Bible, such as, perhaps facetiously, not wearing the colour of red to church on Sunday. That would be ridiculous. But, take this for example: the Bible does teach modesty and that the man and woman should appear distinct from one another. I believe if there is a rule in our church teaching us to wear clothing pursuant to those precepts, I would agree and love to follow that rule. And, if everyone in the church agreed to uphold such biblical standards equally as a rule, there would be love, joy, and peace in that church. Good rules keep the bad stuff out! Yes, I love a church with rules, because Bible based rules keep me in good shape and they are easy to follow! Show me a church with good rules and I will show you a church with happy people.
“Good rules keep the bad stuff out!”
However, not everyone thinks that way. Not everyone likes rules. In society, the only people who do not like rules are usually the law-breakers, the criminals, mostly because they do not like the punishment and pressure of limitations that come with it. Some people think that there should be less rules and then, even less rules! With that mentality in place, they soon demand there be a stop put to all judging and a form of anarchy enters in. Have we seen those symptoms in the church? Yes, and I submit to you that the consequence of it is a lack of love.
Too Many Rules
You may have heard of a fairly recent colloquial term, “Haters”. A “Hater” is simply one who is negative or critical to another’s view on a matter. Sounds like it doesn’t take much, does it? In the church, the word is, “Legalist”. There is an increasing accusation against law abiding, rule-loving people who want to stand against allowing lawlessness and godlessness into the church. They are reluctant to accept modern change contrary to the biblically accepted standards.
There also seems to be an increase of people that want to join a church, carrying in a suitcase full of their own demands. The church is certainly kind and welcoming to them and would love for those visitors to stay, but sometimes have a difficulty reconciling the contents of their suitcase; usually including their own doctrinal views, perhaps a modern version Bible or two, musical tastes, and their worldly loves, etc. But, the minute the visitor even senses they are being asked about the suitcase, they become defensive. Sadly, many times the church backs down and decides to ignore the suitcase to keep the person attending. If the visitor is presented with the church’s stand on a matter contained in the suitcase, the church could be accused of being a Hater or a Legalist. Immediately, personal strife gives rise to division and a lack of peace, and love grows cold. Why? The focus is off what the church should stand for. Instead of focussing on Jesus and His Word and what HE wants, the person with the suitcase focuses on whether what is in the suitcase should be legal or not!
“If you love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15
Why would those visitors not simply check their suitcase with their coats and come in to worship rather than conform the church to their fleshly wants and desires? They want to change the church, but they don’t want the church to change them and it is a bold affront to suggest anything to the contrary! But, the Bible has rules and regulations in place for our protection, not for division. For that reason we should love those rules! Consider what God says about living the right Christian life;
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:30
Instead of allowing visitors to come in and change the church all around, why not invite them in them right from the beginning and encourage them, without compromise, that His burden is light and we love it just like that.
Another symptom coming from those who do not like rules is the “judge not” philosophy taught from many schools and pulpits today. A vast majority of modern day churches have travelled a great distance down psychology road with this position. Judge not! I once heard from the pulpit of a so-called good, Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church that we should not judge, because we are not equipped to judge and that not even Jesus was called to judge. The man in the pulpit was silent when I asked what this following verse meant.
“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:.” John 5:22
Society in the world today wants to do what it wants. It does not want to follow rules and regulations. Sadly the church is following that pied piper down the way to destruction as well. As with the problem of “too many rules”, why not just follow what the Church is doing and stop trying to change the church to your fleshly position? Yes, if you are a member and you hear false doctrine, then most certainly something needs to be said, just like the Bible says. But, when someone, anyone, tells you to stop judging, you better watch your back! You would not sign an agreement without reading the fine print either. No, “stop judging” means to stop discerning the truth; don’t be so negative! Take it easy! Have a nap! Don’t major on the minors! That means they want you to stop watching, which is contrary to scripture already. In fact, if the visitor with the suitcase says for you to stop judging, you better find out quick what is in that suitcase, because the Bible says this:
“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” John 7:24
How do we judge righteously? Know your Bible. Then, watch what the world is up to and reject it outright! Be sensitive to the Holy Ghost. Know your enemy and do not let anyone in that will compromise your standards. Remember, the Bible is always the final authority, not someone’s feelings. Sadly, if that visitor will not leave his suitcase at the door, the parking lot and beyond needs to be his next steps.
Love of Many Shall Wax Cold
Sadly, if a church does not take a stand for rules that are agreed upon and loved by the body, rules that are founded upon scripture, the next thing to disappear is the love and harmony of that body. If the church does bow to the visitor with the suitcase and subscribes to the ‘too many rules’ and ‘judge not’ worldly philosophy, the end result will inevitably become clear. In the end the problem is ‘love thy neighbour’ has turned into, ‘hate thy neighbour’. Matt. 5:44 does not say, “But I say unto you, HATE your enemies, GET BACK AT THEM who curse you, do HARM to them that hate you, and DESPISE them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. No. Quite the contrary.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Matt. 5:44
Remember, rules and unity bring peace and love in fellowship. Division, and then hatred, comes when you have a visitor who has no interest in joining you.
In the end, whether it be in society or the church, rules are necessary. Godly rules are good for us. If God describes us as sheep, then we need fences! Where there are good rules and commandments for us to abide by, there will be loving fellowship and peace. Why don’t we just agree that God’s way is best and take a stand and carry on holding that standard high. Do not let the wolves into the sheepcote and the sheep will be kept safe.
So, when the visitor with the suitcase shows up at your door, but sure to take your stand and keep your standards and they will know we are Christians by our love. ~R.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:34-35
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Psm. 1:1-2
© 2018 Remi Fernhout