September 29, 2008

My Pet Gray Elephant

Just a few weeks ago we talked about the "Gray Elephant" of legalism - our tendency to take what God has purposefully and intentionally left "gray" and try to make it either black or white, right or wrong. We have historically fallen into this temptation corporately on issues like drinking. We've been professionals at sort of publicly reacting to issues rather than carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully responding as Christ would. This has to change.

Over the last few weeks since I preached this message I have seen the Gray Elephant exposing himself in more ways than one. It's as if I taunted him and made him mad, and now he's got something to prove. I've seen and heard discussions about things like "I can't believe he's wearing that..." and "he can't seriously be considering letting them do that". I've witnessed grown, "mature" Christians dragging the Gray Elephant behind them, refusing to just let him stay outside where he belongs, in the ditch. What gives?

Are some of us just convinced and determined that "we" have all the answers and that "we" were burdened by God with the responsibility of levying out the list of do's & don'ts to everyone outside our circle of thought? Are we seriously still hung up on what people wear, how their hair is combed (or not), and whether or not they have 2 earrings or 10? Are we still seriously clinging to this "You can't do this or that in God's house" bologna? Are you kidding me? Because if we are - if we're going to go that direction and hold fast to our "traditional" guns - then it's time for us to take a dive into 1 Corinthians 11. 

If we're going to let the Gray Elephant run the show and we're going to impress and impose on everyone else how we "feel" about things and the way we've "always done it", then it's time to answer some questions. Questions that Paul answered for us. "Is it right for a woman to pray to God in public without covering her head? And isn't it obvious that long hair is a woman's pride and joy? For it has been given to her as a covering. But if anyone wants to argue about this, all I can say is that we have no other custom than this, and all the churches of God feel the same way about it." (italics mine)

This is one of the most culturally-contextual statements made in scripture. It is by no means a mandate for churches to live by today, at least in a literal sense. It is referring to the call for us to be culturally sensitive. So my question to the "mature" believer is, "Are you being culturally sensitive?" Not traditionally sensitive, or comfortably sensitive, or preferentially sensitive, but culturally. Do you know what is or isn't acceptable in your culture? And when I bring up your "culture" are you objective enough to even realize that we are talking about something way outside of just your little world and the way you see things? Is this ringing any bells?

I don't think I can encourage believers enough to go back to Romans 14 repeatedly and frequently to ask the Lord to give us compassion and grace for other believers around us. We get so hung up on everyone else's garbage that we seem to be forgetting our trash is stinking up our own front yard. And if you're not a fan of the Gray Elephant and you don't own one for a pet, don't be caught dragging one around behind you.

"Who are you to condemn God's servants?"
Good question.

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