We have some old friends who are the kind of friends you let your hair down with. We share a glass of wine and share our hearts. We laugh and enjoy each other's company. The conversation will inevitably turn to the Kingdom, and often, in moments of shared exasperation over some Church issue ("Church" as in the worldwide Body of Christ, not a specific local church), we roll our eyes and lament, "Wouldn't it be great if everyone was just like us?!"
I know. It sounds arrogant, doesn't it? But what we really mean is that day-to-day Body life can range from purely joyous to neutrally peaceful to mildly irritating to downright toe-stepped-on offensive. And if everyone was just like us, we could avoid those more uncomfortable moments. We'd share the same convictions. We'd have the same rules. Life would be a piece of cake.
God made it more complicated than that.
We have to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
We have to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.
We have to count it all joy when we encounter various trials.
Body life is good; I don't mean to imply it is not.
The rich friendships I have been blessed with in the Body are priceless.
But Body life is hard.
And that's a fact.
Matters of conscience.
They are frequently the vehicle which transports us from the neutrally peaceful to the mildly irritating...or worse.
The Word of God,
The Counsel of the Holy,
is endless in its depths of wisdom.
We can mine it our whole lives and never exhaust it,
never reach the end of our learning curve.
But it is a Sword.
And we could all use a little weapons' training before we start swingin' that Thang around...
It is possible to hurt someone by improperly using the Word of God.
I admit it.
When I set standards regarding media (books, movies, music)
or style (hair, clothing, makeup)
or food (alcohol, pork, whole foods)
or health (homeopathy, birth control)
or more serious things (remarriage, baptism)...
...I have a strong tendency to make my conviction a universal law.
I am, after all, a black and white girl living in a gray world...
Ironically, I really don't like being held to someone else's standards.
However, I can't think of one single time when someone got in my face for enjoying a beer or wearing pants or cutting my hair.
So, the corollary issue regarding matters of conscience is that while I can't force my standards on someone else,
I also can't flippantly charge them with legalism.
Oh, they might be legalistic.
In their hearts, they might be trying to be right with God by their own virtue.
And that's a private form of legalism, for the Holy Spirit to judge in them.
Nevertheless, I can't say they're being outwardly legalistic if they are quietly living lives of conviction and are letting me also live a quiet life of conviction.
Oh my goodness. I can't even begin to count the times I have done that.
But HOLY HEAD COVERINGS, BATMAN!
We do need standards.
...which brings me to my next point...