Many churches define their rules as ‘standards.’ Some standards are given a higher ranking than others and are labeled ‘convictions’ while others which carry less weight are ‘preferences.’ Different churches, attempting to determine what is important based on the Bible, asserts these standards upon the congregation. Some churches even create defining boundaries of fellowship and partnership with their standards. But I firmly believe that our standards are too many and far too low…
Our Standards are Too Low!
A standard, by definition, is a sign or a banner used in wartime to rally the troops. It is a symbol placed conspicuously to mark a point of direction.
For the church, our standard should be singular. It should be Jesus Christ. He is our banner (Exodus 17:15-16). If there is one symbol that must mark our direction, it must be the cross! We do a tragic disservice to our church and community when we place any lower standard than this (John 3:30)!
Jesus Christ is our goal (2 John 9). If anything else is raised up as the rallying point to Christians, then something else will become the measuring stick for Christianity. If anything besides the perfection of God (Matthew 5:48) is patterned, then each generation will model their own goodness and righteousness… leading to a slippery slope of decay from the inside-out.
Standards are what many churches measure their members up against… Is his hair short enough? Is her skirt long enough? Their music has drums in it! I heard they went to the movies! He didn’t wear church clothes to church! Their family went to the beach! Did you know that he smokes? Ahhhhhhh! The list goes on and on… It is a shame that these rules (mostly man-made) have become the criteria / yardstick for sizing up a person’s spirituality. Are these better than measurements than Christ himself? Should we substitute some rule or line-in-the-sand for the Standard that has already been raised?
Yes, certain rules are profitable. (I am not an anarchist, by any means, nor do I endorse throwing the baby out with the bathwater.) And yes, they can reveal a direction – either good or bad. But these should never be the end, they are only by-products of the goal: Christ-likeness. The end is not living up to standards, it is raising the Standard in my life to be like Christ.
Our Standards are Too Many!
Many churches do religion like the US Government does legislature: when a rule is broken or a loophole is found, it is time for more rules. For example, there are now about 20,000 gun control laws in effect in America. The answer is not more laws – but to get back to the intent of those laws in the first place. Wouldn’t you agree?
That’s where the Pharisees got off track. They were good guys. Really good guys. Yet Jesus condemned this group of very righteous, religious followers the hardest. Why? Because they let their rules get the best of them. Rules about clothes. Rules about church. Rules about family. Rules about pleasure. Rules about everything. They ended up getting so caught up in the rules, they lost sight of why they wanted to be a Pharisee to start with – love for the holiness of God.
See if some of my observations apply in your situation… Standards often give a false sense of spirituality. Standards give credence to comparing yourself to others, which is not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Standards focus on physical sins of the body instead of the spirit, which is far weightier in the New Testament (Matthew 15:11). Standards can make people inappropriately accountable to a pastor / leader, bypassing the convicting role of the Holy Spirit. An over-emphasis on standards makes room for the false accusation of ‘legalist’ to be applied. Too many standards always create double-standards!
A Simple, Sensible Solution:
Make your standard singular… Jesus. If you must have ‘standards,’ make sure every single one has a Biblical principle behind it. One of holiness, of purity, of godliness, of separation. Principles are timeless – they never change with the culture. Here are a few principles that make sense:
1. Separation from the world – Christians are called to be Christ’s. We should look, talk, and act like a child of God. Being a Christian is something that should define you as a new creature in Christ. (Romans 12:2, 13:4, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, James 4:4, 1 John 3:3)
2. Separation between the sexes – Our culture is in a gender crisis. The distinction is being lost as the unisex movement takes over. But God has given each male and female a unique identity and, with that identity, unique roles. (Deuteronomy 22:5 is a perfect example. Men should not be putting on a woman’s apron & trying to play mommy; while women should not work on a construction site or serve in the military!)
3. Separation from sin – Far too many Christians are comfortable with sinful entertainment, sinful habits, sinful lifestyles, sinful cravings, sinful words, etc. Our inward convictions must drive us from our sinful behaviors. (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14)
4. Separation unto the LORD – True holiness is ‘unto the Lord’ and not just ‘from the world.’ Righteousness without humility is just prideful piety. (2 Corinthians 6:17; Psalms 119:115; 1 Thessalonians 1:9)
For 4 Principles on Determining Questionable Things (gray areas) … click here.