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Culture and Christianity I

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Question #1:  I got this in my email:

"Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare. Here's the interesting info. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier! Here's the facts:

1) The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now).

2) The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

3) The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now).

4) The last time it was on March 22 was 1818."

Also what do you think about Easter egg hunts in churches? A church I had visited had them and since we were there helping the church, it made it awkward, but I couldn't support idolatry and paganism.

Response #1:   While I try not step on other people's cherished traditions, like you, I am not much given to man-made, ritualistic exercises (whether "fun" or "solemn"). Easter is not a biblical holiday (nor is Christmas). The early church celebrated the day of our Lord's resurrection, Sunday, and that is that (and even here the idea of over-emphasizing any particular day is not really biblical: cf. Rom.14:5; Gal.4:10; Col.2:16). Shouldn't we be thinking about what Jesus did for us on the cross every day, and not just one day a year? After all, He is more than just someone or something important in our life; He is our life.

So the issue of whether or not Easter is being correctly calculated to represent the date of the crucifixion in 33 A.D. is thus an entirely moot point since we ought to be walking in celebration of our Lord's resurrection and our coming eternal life every day rather than one day a year. Therefore whether people choose to engage in various cultural celebrations involving this holiday is neither here nor there since the holiday is not biblically mandated but a human invention. As you suggest, the more emotion a Christian invests in what are really cultural activities rather than biblical practices, the more potential danger they incur in regard to their faith. At the very least, such things do little to promote spiritual growth, spiritual progress, or true spiritual production. At best, they are mere distractions, stealing our attention away from what is really important, growing, following and serving Jesus Christ through His truth.

Please see the following links:

Is it wrong for me to celebrate Easter?

How is the date of Easter computed?

Some questions about Nimrod and Christmas trees, Tongues, and Healing.

In Jesus who is the resurrection and the life.

Bob L.

Question #2:

I, along with fellow believers from the church, have been trying to find verses in scripture that prove whether of not God would approve or disapprove of piercing or tattooing your body. There has been conflict between the older members of our church with the younger generation over this subject. If you do not mind I would like an answer as soon as possible. I also appreciate you taking the time to answer my question in advance.

Response #2: 

It is true what you intimate, namely, that cultural norms change, and the reaction and attitude of those of older generations is likely to be different from that of your generation. This is one of those subjects on which the Bible does not give a direct and definitive answer, and so falls into the category of application of truth. That is to say, every believer is responsible to the Lord for everything we think, say and do. And of behaviors not mentioned specifically in the Bible, some things are definitely good, some definitely bad, some neither here nor there. We are responsible to learn about the principles of truth scripture gives us and under the guidance of the Spirit in consultation with our consciences and the truth we have learned and believe, then do our best to do what the Lord would have us to do and to stay away from what He would have us avoid. Sometimes this will depend upon our true motives, and sometimes also upon the circumstances, most especially the effect of our action or inaction on our brothers and sisters in Christ (cf. Rom.14). This principle is absolute and does not change even though society and culture do. Naturally, none of us will ever be perfect either in our understanding or in our behavior, but it should be our goal to get as close to that standard as possible.

I have written a number of responses on the subject of tattoos and I invite you to consult the links below for the specifics:

Three Questions about Tattoos and Salvation.

Body Marking in the Bible.

Body Piercing

The Bible as "divine", roof prayer, and tattoos.

The Christian walk and tattoos

More on Tattoos

Feel free to write me back about any of this.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

This man is telling me that if I say bless you or God Bless you, then I am taking the Lord's name in vain. This is what he said:

"Saying "God bless you" every time someone sneezes is using God's name in vain - vanity, emptiness, without meaning. Using God's name as a profanity (making it profane, common) is using His name in vain - because you don't mean it. And do you mean it? Are you really praying for the Lord to bless someone EVERY TIME they sneeze and you say those words? If not, they are in vain. (And, Bless you is just the short form of God bless you.)"

What do you think?

Response #3:    

I think calling it profanity or suggesting it amounts to blasphemy is a bit much. However, the practice of "blessing" after a sneeze does bother me, truth be told. Why do we only say this when people sneeze? If we meant anything by it, we would probably say it more often. As one of my friends said to me one time long ago when I did this once out of force of habit, "Do you have that power?" I suppose when we say "bless you" behind the words we mean, or should mean, "You are not feeling well! I pray for God to bless and heal you!" But if that is what we mean (and I would wager that 99.99% of people who say this are not thinking about much of anything when they do so), it is probably better to do our praying about such things silently rather than making a public show of it.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

I have a question about Deuteronomy 4:15-19. I know that the word "graven" in "graven image" simply means carved; i.e., to draw or mold into an image, and to my knowledge it does not include that you must be worshiping it just because you look at it or have it. Or am I wrong? I have a friend that has woven tapestry with Jesus sitting on a hill looking down at Jerusalem and I wonder if that would be considered wrong. If so, then would it be wrong to paint a picture of my dog because it's wrong to paint animals therefore it would be wrong to do a painting of my dog because its pertaining to making art which would include worshiping it and not God?

Response #4:   

I think its pretty clear that such biblical injunctions are relating very specifically to idols, that is, representations of pagan gods which are then worshiped in pagan religions. Metaphorically, of course, greed of any sort is idolatry (Col.3:5; Eph.5:5) – you can't serve God and Mammon – so that it is true in a more general sense that anything that a person devotes him/herself to apart from God has the capacity to become idolatry.

As to art in particular, I'm not a big fan from a spiritual point of view. Not that I am immune or never have looked at any art (many things fall into this category of course), but it is well to remember that all artistic representation, whether in literature, plastic arts, music, what have you, is generally effected through mimesis, that is, through mimicking something real and exaggerating or altering it in some way. Therefore art pleases us by distorting reality. Moreover, all such vicarious situations or experiences or representations which are fictive and not real affect our emotions even if we are wise and self-controlled enough not to let such things bleed over. Too much of this, or believing the distortion which all art contains, is not healthy from a spiritual point of view. I would not throw a blanket condemnation over all types and forms of art, but it is good for believers to understand what they are dealing with. Art is hardly a spiritual medium, the only genuine exception being the divinely inspired artistic representations of the temple/tabernacle and the literature contained in the Word of God (but here, of course, it is a question of the Spirit directing the artists according to a very specific divine blueprint). This is, for example, one of the dangers in Christian music. The emotional effects of the music may or may not be precisely attuned to or appropriate for the words they accompany, and the words themselves, while seemingly spiritual, are inevitably going to diverge from precisely what the scriptures say (and sometimes dramatically so). Therefore while Christian music, to take this example, can be a spiritual support for believers who are spiritually mature and well trained in the truth of scripture so as to ignore and downplay whatever is of false emphasis or altogether false, it can serve to misdirect immature believers and those who are not advancing spiritually into all sorts of false practices (which is why one finds music playing such a large role in, e.g., charismatic churches). Therefore whenever "cultural activities" begin to delve into areas where they are clearly serving as temptations to sin, the believer should be doubly forewarned. So much in our present society of eschatological "Babylon" is steeped in art/cultural media that it is impossible to exist in it without being bombarded by such images, sounds, etc. every day. The better we learn to appreciate what is "of the world" and what belongs instead to "the things above", the better we will be able to set our minds to thinking and contemplating spiritually positive things (rather than things that lead us into various temptations, distractions, or human-viewpoint patterns of thinking).

See the links:

Politics and Society

War, History, and Politics

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

I ran across this on a news website:

"Does Virtual Cheating Still Count? Online Communities Test Boundaries of Infidelity and Relationships. From the comfort of their homes and with just a few clicks of a mouse, virtual universe residents can do just about anything they want. Second Life, an online world that lets users navigate through a digital planet, has a functioning economy with its own currency, an array of employment opportunities and a bustling social scene, nightclubs included. And, for those looking for virtual intimacy, residents of Second Life can connect with other users, known as "avatars." The universe, which has a population of more than 8 million, has seen 17,898 of its residents engage in partnerships, according to Linden Labs, the developer of Second Life. Partnerships are akin to marriage and participants indicate these on avatar user profiles. Sometimes these online unions, marked by instant message communication and even virtual sex, lead to real-life phone talk, meetings and all the activities that may ensue from that. Virtual Love Turns Real. For Heart, a 37-year-old woman on Second Life who asked to use her avatar's name, a relationship that began in the virtual world is now part of her real life. Her two-year online relationship led to in-person meetings and eventually a real-world partnership."

The God of the Bible is so awesome, and Praise Him for a Living Savior. These two verse came to mind when I read this story:

Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

I find it fascinating how Jesus as the only Lord knew about this when he said this that there would be a "virtual world" and that our "inner man" (heart) affects our life (outer man).

Response #5: 

I quite agree that scripture, the mind of Christ, is wondrous in its applicability to life in every day and age. But fantasizing and day-dreaming of any sort are clearly outside of God's will for us. They always involve, for ego's sake, distorting reality in ways that appeal to our lust (whether it be lust for pleasure, things, money, power, fame, etc.). Therefore fantasizing and day-dreaming of all sorts are to be avoided by all who would walk prudently, carefully and quietly with the Lord. No one is perfect (I least of all), and given the multitudinous possibilities in our modern, high-tech world to recreate, I suppose a person would have to be a monk or Amish never to have played a computer game or gone to a movie or surfed the internet (the list is nigh on endless). But some of these on-line communities your article mentions and many video-games are forms of "acting out", and are just some of the latest modern applications of fantasizing and day-dreaming; I suppose they contribute to making this tendency more pronounced in our society (i.e., worse). We all need a break, now and again, but some of these activities are so addictive that they can easily turn from reasonable relaxation to sinful wasting of time (and that is without taking into consideration the content). Always better to deal with reality in any case, especially since as Christians our true, unseen reality is incalculably better than any fantasy that could ever be day-dreamed up. For this life will come to an end, but the blessed eternal life we will enjoy with our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will last forever.

He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.
Proverbs 12:11 NIV

A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.
Proverbs 17:24 NIV

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.
Ecclesiastes 5:7 NIV

Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Ecclesiastes 6:9 NIV

In Him.

Bob L.

Question #6:   

In your response to:

Do women have to wear veils or some kind of hat in church?

You mentioned that the hair is all the cover she needs and that she doesn't need any veil. Don't you think that Peter and Paul and even God himself knows that all of us have hair by the nature God created us? They could have address the issue in the same way you addressed it ; saying that your hair is your cover so keep it in nice shape when you gather to pray. There is no one single versus saying the hair of the women is her cover. The hair is attached to the skin and cannot be torn away so it is already covering our head, but because of the desire of the man to look at women anywhere and any time, God gave us the role that a women should cover her head ; though he , God, knows that she has hair, and God knows that no women would like to have her hair looks bad. All of them would like to have a good looking hair, so that speech about the veil is to be about the veil and we can't alter or change it's meaning.

Thx

God Bless.

Response #6:    

Dear Friend,

I am not clear as to what you would wish to do with the following verse:

But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
1st Corinthians 11:15 KJV

1) The word "covering" is the Greek word peribolaion, a word which is consistently used for articles of clothing. Since the head is in view, "head clothing" or "hat" or "veil" must be the meaning of the "covering" here.

2) The other word italicized above, "for" (i.e., "for a covering"), is the Greek preposition anti, so that a more accurate translation here would be "instead of" or "in place of a covering". Therefore long hair is the true hat or veil, given by God "in place of" any need for a humanly designed substitute (cf. the humanly designed "leaf-clothing" worn by Adam and Eve – a similarly ineffective human attempt to solve a problem only God can solve).

In Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #7: 

True, God wants glory for the women so he covered her head with hair which could be long or short. I would say that the women hair is different from men's hair, but the glory that God gave the women through her hair has to be kept as glory as it is inside the church whether it is long or short. That what Paul and Peter are claiming, they want this glory be protected from human eyes, from my eyes; because we are human, fill with sins. And you look at all these uncovered heads with all kind of hairdressing and styles. Don't you feel more comfortable attending a church with all the women cover their heads with veil. The veil will give the women power to pray inside the church.; and will let men focus with happiness at the mass, I will loose focus when a women walk in front of me with uncovered hair short or long, to be honest with you, but with the veil, believe it or no I feel more focused and safe. Immediately inside myself I will say, what a nice hair, or what a long hair. It is what you look and feel in that moment because the eyes are the receptionist of all these images and pictures and reflect them to the brain which will interpret them in less than a second, it is out of human control, and God knows that. So I am prepared in the church, because as soon as I get the picture I turn my head away, I don't want this interpretation happen to me. See the mass and watch how your feeling changed , study what is inside yourself and you will feel what exactly I mean. Jesus knows how we feel, and thanks God we have him come to us to save us. It is the responsibility of the women to keep this glorified hair in front of God inside the church by not exposing it. So when I go to the church and see the hair of the women , I feel they didn't do enough to protect this glory from God, as God is watching. Look I am taking the bible as simple as possible, because it is simple, I am not adding or altering anything.

Response #7:   

Dear Friend,

I can see your point of view, up to a point. As I suggested in the previous e-mail, however, this practice is not a biblical practice, but a cultural one. I have no problem with a woman wearing a hat or whatever, if that is what she chooses to do. I have no problem with a man choosing to go to a church where that is the practice. And I can even understand how that might have its benefits, especially in some cultural situations. But there are innumerable practices in innumerable churches and denominations and groups around the world which have through time and use come to be invested with pseudo-authority as if they were biblical. This a bad business, the sort of the thing that gave rise to the Roman Catholic church. If we are not very careful to keep our applications of scripture on a separate plane from scripture itself , pretty soon "what we think" and "what we say" and "what we do" and "how it seems to us" become the only issues, not the scriptures.

It is also wrong in my considered view to dictate to others how they should dress, what they should eat, or what they may or may not do when the activities in question are not delineated by scripture, and especially when, as in this case, their spiritual significance is minimal or non-existent. I am no libertarian. But I am also no legalist. Scripture gives us a good deal of latitude when it comes to the inconsequential things of life, for the reason, it seems to me, that we might make use of the greater opportunities we have thereby to be more effective for Jesus Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1 NIV

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13 NIV

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.
1st Peter 2:16 NIV

Therefore we need to be careful to walk in love; we also need to be careful not dictate to others what that means in each and every case. I suppose what that would mean in this particular instance would be for a woman to take into account the feelings you relate and consider wearing a hat, and for a man to restrain himself from making it an issue in the case of women who don't. But that part is just my opinion.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #8:

My brothers in Christ are discussing what is considered long hair on women, and what is too short

according to the bible. I have been given two views on this. I wanted to know who you think is closer to the truth. This concerns me because I feel that I now MUST have my hair a particular length. Here is what they said:

#1: "For someone to say that hair length for women and men are established by culture are manmade rules. Throughout history, we see various lengths of hair, especially on men. Our Founding Fathers wore wigged ponytails in their official portraits - were they violating Scripture while claiming to be Christian? During the 1800s, you have Southern and Western men with shoulder-length hair, while the business-minded Northeasterners wore somewhat shorter styles. And even though women had long hair, they usually wore it "up," exposing their necks and ears. If women were supposed to have long hair for a covering, why would women put it up? They were essentially removing their covering, weren't they? Then, hair lengths got shorter as well over time. Yet, we generally know what's a male haircut and what's a female haircut, not from Scripture, but from society. Like the issue of women's skirt length, we want to establish hard and fast rules based on our preferences, rather than follow Scriptural principles. We need to be careful about walking in the Pharisees' footsteps. There shouldn't be any hard and fast rules because there is no Scriptural basis for a strict "hair must be "X" inches long on a woman and no longer than "X" inches on a man."

#2: "Whether we are talking about today, a hundred years ago or whatever, a woman with hair below her shoulders is considered to have long hair while a woman with hair above her shoulders is considered to have short hair. The same is true of a man. There is a general idea of what constitutes long hair or short hair on a man. Even during the 60s, the Beatles were considered to have long hair even though their hairstyles were much shorter than many of the hippies. My point really even isn't about hair length so much as the point is that when someone preaches heavily on a topic but then are seen to accept and condone (perhaps even promote) what they preach against, it sends a very bad message to others, believers and non-believers alike. Whatever the topic is the pastor preaches upon, especially if it's something he preaches heavily upon, he should have a standard that he can go by. Rather than proclaiming women must have long hair, he should make it clear where he believes the line is between short and long hair. The same should apply to dress style, for men and women; etc. I'm not arguing for any certain length of hair, I'm arguing for consistency. Too many folks have heard certain pastors rail on hair length and dress styles and then seen these same pastors accept their church members violating what they preach and oftentimes promoting conferences with those in speaking or leadership positions who violate the standards they have put forth. This is inconsistent and leaves them, their church and Christianity in general open for attack and accusations of preaching one thing but living another."

I tend to think that the first person has made some good points on knowing the difference today as to what is considered a feminine hairstyle as opposed to masculine. What do you think? I know that some women are pressured or the sheep is beaten into submission so that they are forced to change the length of their hair or skirt length. How should the church go about exercising discipline on someone who dresses immodestly or have inappropriate hair length?

Response #8: 

As to hair length, I think both of these responses you shared with me make some very good points. Since scripture is silent as to any precise measurement, what constitutes hair being "too long" for men and "too short" for women is to some extent a judgment call. Your own evaluation of the issue, that it really concerns "knowing the difference today as to what is considered a feminine hairstyle as opposed to masculine" is right on the mark. I would say that there is a length beyond which anyone in any culture at any time would say for a man that it was "too long" to meet the biblical standard, and as to the female standard, well, Paul's description of hair sheared off entirely, shaved off entirely, or disheveled is the outer extreme where women are concerned. In most cases, where people talk about "societal standards" as setting the norm, one should be, in my view, at least a little bit nervous. In this instance, however, it is really not so much a case of a "societal standard" as it is "nature" informing society's practice (cf. 1Cor.11:14). That is to say, we all have a natural conscience, and if we violate it we feel "ashamed" (explaining why in spite of the fact that human beings are so corrupt and the devil so influential that public nudity is almost universally felt to be "shameful"; cf. Gen.3:7-10). The closer a man's hair length comes to that natural absolute of "too long" for any society, the more "shame" is felt; whereas the closer a woman's hair comes to that biblically expressed absolute, the less she "feels ashamed". At least that is the natural reaction. But of course in all matters, the natural conscience can be tarnished and seared to the point where it ceases to function (so that unbelievers can commit all manner of sins and even crimes without remorse once their consciences get to that point for example). The two extremes of length for each sex are no doubt interrelated. That is to say, there is a length that would be so long or so short that it would "bother" a person who still has a functioning conscience regardless of what was going on in society, but it is also true that in societies where there is a greater tendency to respect these natural and divinely implanted instincts the internal "shame" alarm goes off earlier, individually and collectively, whereas in societies where that is not so much the case there may be greater leeway on both levels.

So I would have to say that from the biblical point of view as long as a person is not in clear violation of the biblical standard, this is not really the business of the local church but a personal decision and a matter for individual application of scripture. One can go to extremes the other way as well. I do not find any support to suggest that a man who shaves his head or a women who never cuts her hair at all are in any regard more spiritual than others who employ more conventional grooming standards. What concerns me here is the tendency in some churches to make more out of this issue than the issue deserves. This is an occupational hazard of the church visible in our day because it is much easier and more interesting to some at least to focus on superficial items such as this rather than to do the hard but infinitely more rewarding work of delving into the meat of the Word of God. It can also be dangerous to spiritual growth and independence. I understand what person #2 is saying about the need for "consistency", but for a pastor to set a solid and tangible standard where scripture does not give one is to invite legalism of the worst sort. Nearly all cults have this sort of thing in common, and nearly all denominations that have gone down the wrong road in this way have done so by first attempting to spell out what the Bible does not. I think the answer is for pastors to concentrate on exegeting and teaching the Word rather than concerning themselves with superficialities of questionable biblical provenance, and to leave issues of individual application where they belong: in the hands of the believers who are responsible for making them.

For more on this subject please see the related links:

Hats or Hair?

Are women required to wear hats or veils in church?

More on Hats and Hair (response #2)

In our Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

I read what you said about Harry Potter carefully last night, so you don't have to respond to my last email about it. I agree that we cannot be overly righteous concerning this matter as Solomon said in Eccl. I do have another issue which has been on my mind for quite some time. How are women to dress? some of my friends believe that women should not wear pants because it's unbiblical for a women to do so. I asked this two several of my friends and got differing opinions. A sister in Christ said:

"I think in our society today that many garments today are masculine in appearance. Obviously, pants are not one of those garments, since women are known to wear them just as much as men, and men who are manly definitely would not wear women's pants. Let's say for example "cross-dressing", if a modern Americin woman really wanted to make a masculine statement, she wouldn't put on cropped pants, or a pair of capri pants that are loose, jeans that are cut for ladies, or a feminine-looking pantsuit, would she? She would likely go for the male business suit look, complete with tie ("dressy"),or the wide-waisted, hip-riding, cut-for-men pant or shorts, maybe with a "basketball-type" t-top and black work boots or men's flip flops (casual). There is also the cowboy (not cowgirl) look, with the bolo tie, men's cowboy hat, leather vest, jeans, big belt buckle, and cowboy boots. Add to all of this a short shaved haircut and a huge wallet in the back pocket, and you have yourself a pretty convincing copy of a guy. I had seen a picture of a "lesbian" wedding which showed the "butch" partner in a very masculine-cut formal suit, complete with bow tie and cummerbund. OK, that garment is indeed exclusively masculine, no? However, not all pants are exclusively masculine in our culture."

Then a brother in Christ had said:

"One cannot point to today's culture, because today's culture has nothing to do with God or His children, as a matter of fact the culture today ca nothing about God's way nor what God would have his people to do. The only thing they care about is their very own lust. The bible says that ware suppose to be overcomers of the world, speaking of worldly culture and trying to justify why we wear that which pertains to man by pointing out how they dress is wrong."

Now I'm confused! Can you help me to understand this better, because I wear business type pants to work and I'm a woman, not a _______ as some of my so-called Christian associates seem to think of me for doing so.

Response #9:    

I would certainly agree with you that any sort of blanket declaration that women shouldn't wear pants is certainly not justified by scripture. The Bible doesn't say a thing about pants because nobody of either sex in the ancient Mediterranean world wore them (except for Scythian prisoners and uncouth Gauls visiting Rome from the frigid north). It is true that people draw conclusions about us – often unfairly – from our appearance. This is yet another area of application of general scriptural principles rather than of definite scriptural pre- or proscriptions. Clearly, for a woman to wear pants in Boston's Beacon Hill area in the early 19th century would be sending a signal of flouting of social norms (quite different from wearing blue-jeans on a ranch in Montana today. Indeed, nowadays I find it much more the exception than the norm for women to be wearing skirts on campus. In the absence of definite scriptural guidance on a subject of this sort, therefore, it is clearly wrong to say that the place and time and occasion are of no consequence in the equation. This is another one of those areas where what is in a person's heart is really at the core of the decision as to what to do. On the subject of dress generally, we know that what is true of men is also true of women as far as scripture is concerned, namely, that we are to be primarily concerned about the inside rather than the outside (1st Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-5). I think it is a good Christian application to want to present an appearance with which one is comfortable in one's own conscience.

Generally speaking, if one's appearance is sending any kind of a "signal" or is any way deliberately "controversial", it is usually a bad idea because 1) it is making an issue of self, and in a superficial way at that, and 2) it is an attempt at emphasizing or making some point which may be wrong and even if right may be taken wrong (for this same reason I am not in favor of bumper-stickers – people easily misinterpret them, if not the message, then often the motive behind it). Once again, since I am well aware that what a person really thinks or feels is not at all obvious from the way he or she looks, even if they have a "statement look", I find it advisable to overlook such things and concentrate on the inside rather than the outside. I think it is largely pointless and counterproductive to try to point out to people that "how they dress is wrong" because 1) whether or not it really is wrong is between them and the Lord and their conscience (and there is much going on there to which we cannot be privy and about which we should not dare to judge), and 2) if we really want to help someone, we should help them be better on the inside. If the inside is drawing closer to Jesus, then the outside will manifest that spiritual growth in every important way – so that if it turns out that the person's appearance really was in need of addressing, as they begin to walk closer to Jesus they will address it for the right reasons and the right motivations. We aren't doing our brothers and sisters in Jesus any favors if we bully them into acting a certain way and in the process of producing superficial results actually drive them farther away from the love, grace and mercy of our dear Lord. All meaningful change in the Christian life comes from the inside out based upon the process of spiritual growth: hearing, reading, understanding, believing and applying the truth of the Bible to our lives – then helping others do the same.

In Jesus, the One with whom and for whom we walk through this world.

Bob L.

Question #10: 

I meant to put this with the last email on modesty concerning what you wrote. I forwarded to a brother in Christ, and he said:

"It matters not what is in ones heart if it does not line up with the Scriptures. I know a preachers whose wife wears her hair nearly as short as I do, in her heart she think she is doing not one thing wrong. Its really a matter of what God says about the subject. Sinful man's heart can be way off course. There's many people that see us who never have an opportunity to talk with us, so the only way we witness to them is by sight, and or actions. Therefore our appearance, what's on the outside is important. These people have no idea what is in your heart. Our own conscience can be flawed, but God's Word is not flawed, in it we can find answers to every question. The Holy Scriptures is to be used for correction and reproof, not our hearts. Our own conscience can be flawed, but God's Word is not flawed, in it we can find answers to every question. The Holy Scriptures is to be used for correction and reproof, not our hearts. If a person becomes better inside, it ought to show in all aspects of their life, even the way they dress. That is it ought to work itself all the way from the heart to the surface by the way we present our self to the world. But again, if the truth is not proclaimed no one will get better inside."

I think I see where this is flawed, but wanted your expert opinion.

Response #10:   

I don't have a lot to add to what I said before. If you are convinced that God does want you to wear pants, then it would be wrong for you to do so. Scripture gives us everything we need to know, but it certainly leaves lots of room for application in many areas in the way we live our lives. You can't find anywhere in the Bible what college you should go to, or even whether you should go to college. The Bible tells you about different spiritual gifts but it doesn't tell you which one(s) you have, or what ministry God has assigned you, or what precise approach you should take. It doesn't tell you what to have for dinner or how much to spend or how much to eat. And it certainly doesn't tell you what color to wear or what brand to wear or what size to wear or even what specific article of clothing to wear (or not wear). I have no problem accepting the applications of these issues that people have made for themselves with their understanding of the general things scripture does say under the guidance of the Spirit. I think, however, it is demonstrably dangerous to take such standards, standards which are not set out in scripture, and apply them to other people.

Besides the issue of judging others (and in these cases over non-scripture specific standards!), there is also the danger of becoming overly fixated on what are clearly relatively unimportant matters in comparison to salvation, spiritual growth, and production for Jesus on the basis of the gifts a person has been given. I would much rather help a person come to Christ, grow in Christ, and matter for Christ than to get them to dress the way I do or think they should, or eat the way I do or think they should, or behave, or abstain/indulge in certain ancillary activities, or vote, or think or etc. the way I do. It is possible that doing things that are not the norm when the choice clearly is for Jesus can indeed open up lines of communication for good and that is all for the good. But in that case, what has happened is what you report to have happened in your case: 1) a person is convicted in their heart that they ought to do/not do something because that course of action is pleasing to God; 2) they follow that course of action despite common trends – not out of being bullied by others but because they are trying to please the Lord no matter what others think; 3) God honors their attitude and action.

Note well here, however, that none of this means that another Christian might not have a very different application and be honored by God in a similar way. When it comes to non-biblical applications to life, the person and the circumstances concerned are beyond all question an essential part of the equation. What we might consider modest dress, modest behavior, and modest speech here in 21st cent. USA, might well be considered arrogant, or bizarre, or scandalous, or unloving in many parts of the world and in different times of history. Therefore what I object to is in contrast to the good model enumerated above an approach where 1) a person is bullied by others to adopt standards not actually found in scripture; 2) they do so, and, out of a desire not to feel bullied, adopt the same self-righteous and legalistic attitude of the people who bullied them; 3) they then claim to be doing God's work and claim to be being honored by God when God has nothing to do with it. That is the essential difference between the good "inside out" approach and the dangerous "outside in" approach. To the world it is difficult to tell the difference (as indeed the Pharisees appeared "righteous"), but the person involved knows the difference in his/her heart, and God surely knows the difference.

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:1-4  NIV

In Him who humbled Himself to death, death on a cross, that we might have eternal life, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

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