As I sat and listened to yet another discussion on the ways of God it became obviousâGod is not clear cut.
His 66-book love letter has more literary imagery than a Shakespearean play, and between the allegories, metaphors and juxtapositions one can feel at a loss to understand the ways of God. I mean, what about being free from sin but being a slave to Christ? Am I free or am I a slave? Or am I a free slave?
God is both just and merciful, He gave us the law but also gave us grace, and promises us both blessings and trials... I get the impression a box is not His location!
I couldn't find God in a boxâso how in the world would I ever get clear cut guidance on the ways of God that weren't so clear cut?
I used to think uniformity of God's ways was best. If everything was clearly stated with clear 'do this' and 'don't do that' rules, it would limit the many divisions in church. Discussions on 'personal convictions' and not having 'received leading' would be nullified by the explicitness of a 'thou shalt not'. For a while I was certain that black and white on everythingâfrom food to funâwould fix things.
Yet, as I looked at my fellow believers I knew in my heart this wasn't true. We already ignore the present 'thou shalt nots' with 'that does not apply'.
We aggravate and debate, resulting in the loss of love and congregants. Not to mention the Pharisee-like mentality I was heading towards!
So I decided to do away with uniformity.
I thought of my own experiences with my parents' 'thou shalt nots'. They demanded modesty from me during my adolescent years but as an itinerant member of the family, passing in and out during my college years overseas, I only externally adhered to the rules.
My freedom in college was characterised by an exploratory, slightly deviant form of indecent apparel. In my heart attention from the opposite sex overrode the 'thou shalt not' given by my parents (and by extension God).
All I saw was the stringency of my parents. When I followed the 'thou shalt not' I was only doing the activity to look good in front of them. My actions outside of their watchful eye showed my heart. I did not accept those as the rules by which I would live.
It wasn't until God's desires became more important than my self-gratification that I began to understand the purpose of this 'thou shalt not'. It wasn't until my heart's desire was to live pure before my God and protect my brothers in Christ that I could accept modesty.
As I looked at my clothing I began to changeânot because I was a slave to my parents or to the ruleâbut because I understood the intent of the rule.
Now I didn't have to ask what exactly could I wear and still be modest. Nor was I thinking about how much of the culture around me I could integrate into my new found focus on modesty. I was not looking for ways I could work around the rule but for ways to live out the rule.
So focusing on rules wasn't itâit was focusing on God's intent behind the rule. Cranking out stacks and stacks of guidelines did nothing more than add band-aids to a massive, hemorrhaging gash in the heartâmessy.
What was necessary wasn't that we all looked like each other, but that we looked like Christ. My church versus your church becomes of no consequence and arguments over what is and isn't allowed were a poor attempt at marshalling the wandering deviant. It is why Jesus could condense over 600 'thou shalts' and 'thou shalt nots' into two: Love God and Love Your Neighbor.
This, my friends, is better than all the undeviating, android automation of a uniformed, static religion.
We can spend countless hours studying the 'thou shalt nots' or we can focus on pleasing Christ.
We can constantly discuss what should be the theological stance on things or we can constantly wash ourselves with the Word of God so the HOLY Spirit can be in us and around us long enough to reveal to us what is God's heart on any situation. Then, as Jeremiah says, God will,
"put [His] instructions deep within [our hearts]...[and] write them on [our] hearts. [And He] will be [our] God." â Jeremiah chapter 31, verse 33.
Stacy-Ann Smith is a third grade teacher and a child therapist. She is involved with youth and children's ministry and has a heart to work with young women teaching them the ways of the Lord. She serves as a board member of the Kingston and St. Andrew Foster Parent's Association
Stacy-Ann Smith's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/stacy-ann-smith.html