Yesterday, on my Facebook page, I posed an unusual question. I asked people to share how they feel about chewing gum. My friends rose to the occasion. The responses I got ranged from, “Only you!” to “chew it all day!” to some honest, well-thought discussion on when it’s okay to chew and when it’s not. I even had one friend who said you should only chew gum when you’re alone because it’s rude. But, not one person said gum chewing was a sin.
No, I don’t think gum chewing is sinful. But, in the Church of God, it was considered a sin in the last century. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a scripture in the Bible relating to chewing gum. (If you do, please point it out to me!). Yet, an entire sect of American Christians believed it was sinful because the doctrine of a church said so.
I think most folks I know will find that fact amusing and will have great fun with it. But. When I’m asked my biggest issue with church(es) right now, my answer is, “chewing gum.”
You see, I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about church. What should the church look like? What is our role as “the church?” Who decides which church’s beliefs are right or wrong? (The obvious answer to that one is God.)
The family and I changed churches a few years ago. It was a God-directed move and I don’t regret it one bit. But, I went from a church that was pretty liberal to one that was quite strict and I found it both amazing and amusing to see what was okay in one church and not the other. Ironically, although the second church was far more strict than the first one, there were things that weren’t acceptable in the more liberal church that were acceptable in the more conservative second church.
When I was researching for this writing, I googled, “church history things that used to be a sin and now aren’t.” While I was looking for a cut-and-dried list, what I found was even more eye-opening….and disturbing. I found an article that on a website called bassfishing.org that listed all the ways the Baptist church is unbiblical. After MUCH digging, I discovered this was a Church of Christ site. On anther site, (Jesus-is-savior.org) I read the article, “The Dangers of Going to Church.” In that article, David J. Stewart lists all the churches who are preaching false doctrine. You guessed it, the Church of Christ was one of them. In fact, he labeled them a cult. At the bottom of the article, I finally discovered that this was man is an Independent Fundamental Baptist. Ironically, the only things these two agreed on was 1) The Bible is the only place to find answers 2) Jesus is Lord and 3) All denominations (other than their own, of course) are wrong and sending their constituents to hell.
No wonder we have so many confused people these days! Each denomination has its own set of rules about what’s right and what’s wrong. Here is a list of what I’ve learned from websites, churches and well-meaning Christians.
Women can’t wear pants EVER! Unless they’re hiking a mountain. Then, they can wear pants under their skirt. Never mind, they can wear pants as long as the pants aren’t too tight. But, never on stage at church! Just kidding, pants are fine – black is best. NO makeup! Okay, just a little. Not so anyone sees it. We’re having a clown today for children’s church! Or jewelry! But they can wear flowers in their hair or pinned to their dress and can wear fancy, bejeweled watches. No colored fingernail polish! But, manis and pedis done in French tip are fine. No shorts! Unless you’re a kid. You can go to the beach, but you’d best call it the “coast” and you can swim but not in a bathing suit. Music is evil. Wait, music is fine as long as it’s Christian. No, only hymns are okay. Just kidding, as long as the artist calls themselves a Christian, anything they sing is acceptable. Halloween is evil! Stay away from it. Or, dress only as fun stuff and call it a “fall celebration.” Movies are bad! Stay away from theaters! But, you can watch movies at home. Wanna watch one that’s still at the movie theater? Go ahead and stream it on the computer. We won’t discuss that supporting movie piracy is stealing. No cutting grass on Sunday! Or car washing! But, you can go to a restaurant or mall (ummm…..does that mean we’re supporting people working?) God before family! But, you should be in church every time the doors open. Men, if you’re in a leadership role, suits only to church! Doesn’t matter what anyone else wears. Wearing shorts? Come on in! Once we get you saved, we’ll teach you the error of your ways. And no drinking! Unless you’re Catholic, then it’s okay. Okay, you can have a glass of wine, but don’t get drunk! My cigarettes are fine, thank you very much. God doesn’t mind if I smoke. Nooo….smoking is bad! You’re hell bound! Read only the King James Bible! It’s the only true word of God! Just kidding. We’ve found errors. Read whatever Bible you want. The NIV is a good one. No, wait, it’s an evil version devised to lead you astray!
Okay. That’s enough for now. You may think I’m being antagonistic. You’re partially right. But, these are the messages that the church world as a whole is sending. The messages can be confusing at the least. Yet, every church goer seems to think their church is the one who’s getting it right. Wait. Maybe I am being antagonistic. Because I’m angry. I’m angry that folks are being hurt by churches and are turning away. I’m angry that we seem to be more concerned with the amount of makeup on a woman’s face than we are with the condition of her heart. I’m angry that people are starving for love and we’re spending our time on church pews instead of introducing them to the One True God.
So. What to do? Well, I’m not exactly sure. We’re in between churches. Sort of. With the dear husband working retail, it’s hard to get to church at traditional church times. The ones who truly seem to be getting it closer to right are the home churches. They are the ones who are committed to “doing life” alongside each other and searching the scriptures for the rights and wrongs, versus listening to man’s doctrine. Can the larger churches do that also? I guess. Thing is, once we have a relationship with Christ, I believe we should be more interested in introducing Him to others than we are in listening to sermons. No, I don’t think sermons are bad! I just don’t think they should be our first priority or the only “Christian” thing we do all week.
Here’s what I do know. I love Jesus. I believe He is the Son of God, yet was fully God Himself. I believe He hung on a cross for our sins and died, then rose three days later. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. And I believe that’s what we should be looking to for our answers. Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40 NASB. Since I don’t have all the answers, I think for now I’ll just do that – love God and love people – and not try to decide for others what is a sin for them. Want to chew gum? Go for it! That’s between you and Jesus!
Be blessed and tell someone you love them.