Wednesday, March 16

Controlling the Urge to Nit-Pick

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. --Titus 3:9

The company I work for is so large that it has a policy for just about everything! In fact, there are so many corporate regulations that instead of giving everyone a multivolume employee handbook, the company provides all of its policy documents in an online format. I was astounded to see how many general rules there are, including how many specific policies exist for the different divisions within the company. As a responsible employee, I am required to know which policies apply to me and which ones are the most important.

At first glance, I thought that this might be comparable to the responsibility we have as Christians. Initially, it seemed to me that God's Word could be considered as a sort of "employee handbook". However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized what an off-target comparison that really is.

Have you ever read through all the lists of Old Testament Jewish laws? Every now and then it's sort of interesting to see how many specifications there are for different feasts and celebrations. One law I read mentioned that a person should not wear garments made of two kinds of cloth. Yikes! Does that mean I'm sinning whenever I wear my favorite poly-cotton blend blouse? Other verses mention that it is honorable for a woman to have long hair. Still another says not to tattoo ourselves. The lists go on and on. As Christians, it is debatable how much of the Old Testament law applies to us in present day. I know some people who would love to nit-pick about why boys shouldn't have long hair, or why good Christians shouldn't get tattoos.

On the surface, it is easy for me to want to jump in with my own opinions about such things. I could probably write pages and pages about that things I believe embody a spirit of modesty and propriety, but my viewpoint may not be shared by others and that could result in an argument. Like this verse in Titus says, such quarreling is unprofitable. When we nit-pick the rules, we are using God's word more of a list of dos and don'ts, rather than revering it as a direct form of communication from God to his people. This is not to say that the Old Testament rules are not worth knowing. The Old Testament Jewish laws were instructions for how the people could make themselves righteous in the eyes of the Lord. In particular, those laws applied to the Levites (Jewish tribe of priests) who acted as a mediator between God and his chosen people. This was necessary because Jesus had not yet come to atone for the sins of the world. When Jesus came, he provided a way for all of us to be cleansed without having to keep up with all the picky rules.

For us to get caught up in worrying about the rules would be like saying that Jesus' work on the cross wasn't complete or good enough. What a foolish thing to think! We know that God's grace is sufficient, and that Jesus' death on the cross completely conquered death. It is through his death and resurrection that we are given the gift of eternal life. We gain access to heaven by believing in Christ's death and resurrection, and not by adhering to a number of Levitical laws. We do not earn our way into heaven by keeping all the regulations straight, nor could we ever hope that anything of our own doing would be enough to purify us from our sins.

We need to resist the urge to be nit-picky about the rules. The greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The other "basic" commandments are the 10 Commandments as given to Moses. Don't get caught up in arguing about whether it is a sin for a guy to pierce his ears, or if roller skating on a Sunday afternoon is considered failure to keep the Sabbath holy. Things like that really don't matter as much as we think. What matters most is that we live obediently and in a way that glorifies God.

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