Thursday, November 4, 2021

Spiritual Gift Wrap

There is something I have been pondering for a few months now. 

We take our interpretation of scripture and make it THE interpretation. Our emphasis and make it THE emphasis. Our angle and make it THE angle. 

And the same goes with life as a whole, and all the little parts of life that make up that whole. 

We take what we long for...we take our perspective of the day...and claim it is God's way. 

It is ok to have convictions. To have opinions. To have preferences. To tailor make things to our skills and experiences and circumstances. Our longings and our dreams. 

The problem comes when, instead of accepting those things for what they are, choices in a cafeteria of fine and acceptable options, we wrap them in biblical language and proclaim them as THE biblical path forward. And we gift them to everyone else. 

The problem is that, as with all legalism, is that we are placing a law where there may indeed be none. We are placing that law on ourselves and on others. and the consequences of the law are almost always arrogance and self-righteousness if we get it right (and judgment of others who don't) or despair if we fail at the so called "biblical" standards that we or somebody else has set up. 

The other problem is that as our opinions and preferences and convictions change, as they often do as we grow and develop and experience real life, we may be hesistant to move on, to live out life a different way, because we or someone else has labeled anything outside of the prescribed path as unbiblical, dangerous, heresy. 

For those of you who identify as Christians, worry not. I am not talking about basics here. I am not throwing out Jesus. I am talking about all the things we add. All the ways we shore up our fragile egos with declaring our ways are the only biblical ways. We take complex life decisions and boil them down to a template that will get God's stamp of approval...OR ELSE. 

I think I really first noticed this, and I will say, to my shame, engaged in it, as a young parent. It wasn't enough to long to stay at home with my babies, I needed not only God's stamp of approval but God's proclamation that I was doing THE biblical thing. I decided having more kids was more holy (thus my despair when we stopped after only four when so many more "godly" women had so many more). I remember one woman saying she thought not breastfeeding was a sin, her preference and scientific evidence rising to the level of moral law. The Ezzo parenting style brought division and showed me how damaging it was to be on the failing end of the "biblical" parenting mandate, I mean what kind of an apostate are you when you not only don't believe in Growing Kids God's Way, you couldn't get with the program if you tried. The schooling decision brought more guilt and pain. People's convictions and preferences were coopted by a culture of fear and the result was a fracturing of community into the "us vs them" of education. I could go on. 

A couple of weeks ago a young mother wrote a truly concerning article for Desiring God declaring, among other things, that Satan uses the internet to take down mothers. She included this zinger that, thankfully, lit a bonfire of backlash, 
Some of Satan’s best work is accomplished by women talking to women, in the floating world of disembodied souls on the Internet.

The article really deserves its own blog post response, perhaps, but I saw here what I am seeing everywhere: a young woman who has opinions and convictions and has decided that, rather than living out her convictions for herself (avoiding the community of women found on the internet and seeking out only the wisdom of older women in her church and scripture), she needs to wrap her convictions in a package of spiritual language and place that burden on other people. 

I once read an article about how letting your child quit the soccer team was violating some biblical principle and Elisabeth Elliot had a thing for tidy housekeeping and well made beds, proclaiming "A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.”

Why can't we just have the freedom to like what we like and parent how we have been gifted to parent with our particular children who may be vastly different from our neighbor's? Why can't we vote how we have been convicted to vote and pray the way we pray without being told one is right and one is wrong? Why can't we trust that God his Kingdom is big enough for all of our convictions, opinions, personalities, gifts, and preferences? Minus the spiritual gift wrap?

Paul flipped a biscuit when circumcision was added to the gospel. We would do well to follow suit.