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Boundaries and Grace

I made my serious commitment to Jesus at age fifteen. I had grown up in a church which taught that dancing was a sin. It was also forbidden for women to wear jewelry, pants and cosmetics. The list didn’t stop there, and it was a long one. So when I began reading through the New Testament that first summer of being a born-again believer, I kept waiting for the part where Jesus said, “Thou shalt not go to a movie theater, nor should women wear lipstick, mascara or jewelry. And verily I say unto thee, dancing is a work of the devil.” Imagine my shock when I finished the book of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, and still hadn’t arrived at that part.

My dad was a preacher in that denomination, and he taught me that Baptists and Catholics were going to hell. And many others believed that if you didn’t speak in tongues, you weren’t going to be raptured with the rest of God’s children. I later found out that many non-Pentecostals believe those who speak in tongues are making the whole thing up. And Amish believe that having buttons on their clothes would constitute prideful sin. In another direction, many denominations use real wine during communion while others believe consumption of alcohol in any way is a sin which will disqualify one from reaching Heaven, despite Jesus having turned water into wine.

As I grew into an adult I met many Baptists who were serious in their devotion to Jesus, and many Catholics who served Him with their whole heart, which surprised me after all I had heard while growing up. In fact, some of my Catholic friends put their evangelical counterparts to shame in their sincere, heartfelt worship of God. There was obviously more to this than I had been taught.

I have always found it interesting that Mennonite women wear long skirts and sleeves down to their wrists, and keep their heads covered in obedience to Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 11:6 (“For if a woman does not cover her head…if it is a disgrace.”) That said, Mennonites are among the most effective Bible smugglers in the field. When a very experienced Bible smuggler told me of this, my immediate question was, “How do the border guards not catch them, when they dress so distinctively?” Her answer humbled me, “Because the same Holy Spirit who blinds the border guards when you cross over, also blinds them when the Mennonites cross over.” I realized I had much to learn.

Eventually I came to understand that the denomination in which I grew up, along with many others, was described by Jesus quite well in Matthew 15:9b: “…their teachings are merely human rules.”

As I grew in my walk with the Lord, I found it interesting that while Jesus gave us many commands, He also allowed us a lot of leeway in how we live our daily lives. I made a list of Scriptures called “Loose Boundaries Based on Grace.” Or, “none of us gets everything right.”

Here are just a few of the Scriptural guidelines we are to follow:

Matthew 22:37-40—“Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

James 1:27—“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Hebrews 12:1-2—“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Romans 12:1-2—“…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

2 Corinthians 7:1—“…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Philippians 2:12—“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”

Although not a Scriptural passage, this quote speaks truth: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” (attributed to several different authors)

These passages sum it up best:

Romans 14:1-4—“Accept…without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?”

James 2:13—“…Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

All Scripture references are from the NIV

© 2017 Darvis McCoy

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