Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Will Worship

In my recent readings (and watching of videos) I've seen so many scriptures taken out of context it's like watching Scriptural Gymnastics. Hopping from one scripture to another, ignoring context, ignoring the story, ignoring the message that is attempting to come through.

One particular verse that I've seen misused is Colossians 2:23. Some like to use the King James Version which reads: "Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." They key on the words "will worship". Other versions say "self made" or "self imposed". But they turn those words into a new designation for anything they think is an addition to the worship. They say we are not to engage in "will worship" and here are the set of things we can and can't do as part of worship. It's a nice clean list. Totally ignoring the fact that in the whole chapter preceding this, Paul has been reminding them they they are free from the chains of ritualistic legalism. They are not bound by the doctrines of men. Much of this passage also deals with moral purity. The physical constraints being put on them had no ability to make them pure in heart. Nothing in these verses gives any indication that making more rules is desirable. In fact, it says it is not helpful and it is contrary to the true message of the cross.

I found this enumeration of 800ish commands in the New Testament. There are only 613 commands in the Old Testament. Someone went to a lot of work to categorize these. It sure looks like a daunting list. But it is totally stripped of context, story, and meaning. Not all commands are for all people at all times. And the statement "Be kind of brotherly love one to another" isn't so much a new command as an explanation of one way to exercise what Jesus said were the greatest commands.

A distinction I have noticed between the OT law and NT law is that most of the OT laws had immediate consequences spelled out. In the NT, rarely is there any immediate consequence (punishment) that accompanies the "commands." The only retribution is at the end of your life when you die and go to heaven or hell. And since Christians are in Christ, the eternal retribution is put aside. So what keeps us from doing whatever we want. Romans 6. We died to sin and put on Christ which makes us want to be like him.

Another distinction, the OT laws are very specific and try to cover a wide variety of situations. Yet even this wasn't enough for the Rabbis and Pharisees who felt the need to be even more specific and build up hedges around the laws. In the NT, most "laws" are very high level and there is no attempt to go into all the situations around which to build a court case. (One counterpoint to this, is 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul is teaching them about being married, staying married, and being single. But even in this case, there are so many other scenarios that are not covered, I don't tend to read this as a rule book but as a set of principles and things that will work out "best.") In the absence of specificity, we often make our own hedges just like the Pharisees. This is fine on a personal level (I abstain from any alcohol). But it is not okay when I try to enforce this on others (You must abstain from all alcohol) else labeling them as "not taking the authority of the Bible seriously", not "rightly dividing the word of truth", "false teacher", or even "erring brother."

Colossians 2:16 says "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath." How often do we let other people pass judgment on us for how we worship? How often do we pass judgment on others for how they worship? How often do we let other people pass judgement on other people for how they worship?

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