Even if we understand how we are saved by grace, we can still be tempted to live by works in such a way we burden ourselves and disregard Christian liberty.
Christian proselytes in their newfound zeal are compelled to give Christ their all. In order to do that, some will throw out any secular music they own. They avoid the activities they once enjoyed (not necessarily sinful ones). Instead, they listen to “Christian” music and spend their time doing “spiritual” things.
Their desire to live in a way that would be pleasing to God is admirable. Unfortunately, they often create for themselves an impossible standard and unnecessary burden. It’s the Christian version of the Jewish Talmud (a book filled with man-written laws above and beyond God’s own law).
In the world, not of the world
My Discovering Grace co-host, Brad Whitley, learned of the burden of one woman who was trying desperately to do the right thing. She was heavy-laden with guilt after attending the State Fair.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)
In our churches, there is a common phrase: In the world, but not of the world. As disciples of Christ, we can’t help but to live in this world along with all of its evil. Of course, we’re not to participate in that evil.
But we can take the above expression to an extreme and become burdened with guilt by doing something as harmless as visiting the State Fair. Is attending the State Fair really an act of loving the world?
Some things are neither good nor evil
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…” (Gal. 5:19-21)
Following this list of evil things, Paul also gave a list of good things. If you study both, you should learn how some things in life are simply indifferent. They are neither good nor evil.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Miles Davis recently. His music contains no words. Is his music sinful?
Of course not.
Without words, it can’t be spiritual and it can’t be evil. It’s just music. The same is true for many other things. Even if you feel convicted to do only what is spiritual, don’t be consumed with guilt just because you attend the State Fair or enjoy listening to Miles Davis.
Hiding the light under a basket
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick…” (Matt. 5:14-15)
Not only can the “not of the world” mentality burden us with unnecessary guilt, it can leave us too closed off from the world. If we get obsessed with not being of the world, we may fail to the light of the world.
Even Jesus spent his time with the publicans, sinners, lepers, and Samaritans. He never sinned nor participated in anyone’s sinful behavior. But he didn’t hide from them either.
We often build walls around the church. We hope to avoid being tainted by the wickedness around us. But what do we have to fear? Jesus said even the gates of hell would not prevail against us (Matt. 16:18).