There is a concept in the church I’m from that we can live above sin. If we sin after we come to God, we are told we are, at best, living beneath our privileges. Sin doesn’t have control of our lives now, therefore we shouldn’t sin.
I have several issues with these thoughts, but there is one that really gets me. Perfection. The five fold ministry is for “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.” So we are to be brought to perfection or maturity. But what is perfect? What is mature? Simple (they say). Don’t cut your hair, don’t put on makeup, don’t wear pants, always wear long sleeves, don’t wear jewelry (including wedding bands or bracelet watches). Don’t go on a date without a chaperone, or hold hands or kiss until you’re married. Don’t lie. Respect the ministry, never talk bad about the man of God or his family, and never question what a leader says. Don’t wear hair bows, don’t wear anything in your hair that doesn’t match your hair color. Don’t wear red, don’t wear certain shoes, don’t wear denim to church, don’t wear denim jackets or caps ever. Sit like a lady. Stay submissive. Learn when to clap and shout and run, and always do these at the right times. Don’t be out after midnight, don’t fellowship non-Apostolics, don’t drink or chew or cuss or swear….
The list goes on and on. Is that perfection? Following a list of proscribed do’s and don’ts? Is that maturity? Or is perfection- is maturity- accepting ourselves and others as we are, while still becoming more like Jesus? What happened to love? Was it perfected right out of the church? Am I immature because I doubt these types of restraints in my 30s? Are others more mature because they watch to see when I make a mistake and immediately report it to the pastor (and gossip about it in the meantime)? Is the pastor in a place of spiritual perfection and maturity when he yells that I have a women’s lib spirit, because I supposedly broke one of these rules?
Perfection, maturity, is so far beyond any list of do’s and don’ts. I fear we’ve missed it. When I start to do something and stop to think, “if someone saw…”, rather than considering how Jesus would think or just being able to relax and enjoy myself in some small way, that is anything but maturity, spiritual or otherwise.
If lists of rules were perfection, the Pharisees and Jesus would have been great friends, I suppose. But they weren’t. It was Jesus who said “ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and forget the weightier matters of the law… these ought ye have done, and not to leave the other undone”. It was Jesus who said “he that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” Jesus stepped beyond the rules and touched the heart.
God calls us, as Christians, beyond a list of rules. We are called by Him into a place of trust and faith and love. We desire to do our best for Him, but our best isn’t any more dependent upon the man made rules than Jesus’ was. How often did Jesus heal on the Sabbath? Touch a leper?
Jesus stepped beyond rules, and he calls us to do the same. It is a step of faith. Rules are simple to follow, but real love isn’t always. After all, love healed, but it also allowed crucifixion. Can we reconcile that love in our hearts?
Ez 26:36 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Rules can be followed by a heart of stone. Love can only be followed by a heart made soft by the touch of Jesus. By his love. And it’s in His love that we can be, and are, made “perfect.”