Permitted and Forbidden

One point of view:

“Whatever is not mentioned in scripture is forbidden in worship.”

Another point of view:

“Whatever is not mentioned in scripture is permitted in worship.”

Both are absurd.

Vendors hawking popcorn in the aisles between pews are not mentioned in scripture. Should they be permitted?

Standing while singing in the assembly of Christ’s followers is not mentioned in scripture. Should it be forbidden?

I submit that both points of view are ridiculous because they seek to exclude the other in all circumstances.

I submit that both points of view are preposterous because they imply that scripture is designed almost solely to provide laws and rules and regulations which must be followed to the letter, even if the letter is silent.

I submit that both points of view are ludicrous because they define worship as if it were something that can only happen when believers are assembled on a Sunday morning for an hour or two.

I submit that any two honest believers can come to polar opposite conclusions about what scripture says is worship acceptable to God and still be siblings in Christ and accepted by God. I can say that because differences in what is offered as worship to God go all the way back to the land east of Eden and Genesis 4. God is sovereign. He can look with favor on what is offered, or not. But His judgment upon the one who offers it is not based upon the content of the gift offered in worship. It is based upon the heart and conduct of the giver.

God told Cain: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

But it would be equally absurd to conclude that the heart of the giver has no effect on the content of the gift offered in worship. God would later outline sacrifices of the firstfruits from both the land and the flocks/herds. Jesus would recommend reconciling with someone with whom there was conflict before offering a gift of worship. Did His advice end with the altar?

Can we worship God together whole-heartedly if we are distracted by feelings of contempt toward those we have judged to offer an unworthy gift of worship? Or those we have judged to be criticizing our own gifts of worship?

Can we worship day-to-day, by the way we serve Him, hobbled by those concerns?

Is judgment really our role in the first place?

Wouldn’t it be worship to recognize it as His, and leave it to Him to do perfectly?

There are plenty of places in scripture which describe what God accepts as worship. Prayer. Singing. Giving gratefully. Communion with Him and each other at His table. Evangelism. But that’s not all. There’s more, much more:

Selflessness. Sacrifice. Generosity. Benevolence. Forgiveness of others. Mercy. Justice. Penitence. Humility. Love. Joy. Peace-brokering. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Self-control. Teaching. Exemplifying Christ. Fasting. Servitude. Obeisance. Obedience. Hospitality. Faith. Courage. Childlikeness.

You can’t fit all of that into two hours on Sunday.

And it makes no sense to focus almost solely on legislating and enforcing the tithe of the mint and the rue and the anise and the cummin – at the neglect of these far weightier matters.

Let’s use our best judgment and fullest heart to present Him our gifts of worship with consciences clear and free of judging others.

Let’s do what God clearly says to do: what He has permitted.

Let’s abstain from what God clearly says to avoid: what He has forbidden.

Let’s see the Word for what it is: an eclipse pinhole through which His perfect glory is projected on our lives; not a magnifying glass on the imperfections of His worshipers.

Let’s not try to make it say more or less than it says; interpret it to mean more or less than it means; quote Him as saying more or less than He has said.

Let’s let Him decide what is permitted and what is forbidden … who has obeyed and who has disobeyed … and whether He will show mercy or mete justice.

To me, any other point of view is, well, absurd.

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6 thoughts on “Permitted and Forbidden

  1. <>“I submit that any two honest believers can come to polar opposite conclusions about what scripture says is worship acceptable to God and still be siblings in Christ and accepted by God.”<>Amen.I think this is the bottom line…we’ve just got to realize this! We’ve gotta learn how to step back, let God judge, and accept each other as brothers and sisters, despite our differences.Once again, nicely done, brother Keith! Much love–mmlace

  2. “Let’s let Him decide what is permitted and what is forbidden … who has obeyed and who has disobeyed … and whether He will show mercy or mete justice.”I know I certainly have no buisness deciding these things for others. It took me forever to realize that I did not have to. I was a regular one man judgement committee to my shame. It was a giant weight from my shoulders. Thanks for the thoughts. LED

  3. Amen and Amen! Great followup to your “serve in worshiping and worship to serve” comment the other day. We have so much more going on than the two hours on Sunday! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Well said! The very things you speak of here are the very reason we have so many churches.. so many denominations.. so many groups within denominations.. we get in the way and try to put our beliefs/traditions ahead of what God wants. I think in so many ways we are no better than the Pharisees.

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