Following the “Rules”

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:  “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Colossians 2:20-23

My Mom has this great story.  It takes place when she was a high school student in a little town in West Texas over 70 years ago.  It seems that the school had a street dance one Friday night, and all of the kids were there.  There was also a Youth Pastor from a nearby church who was seen there.  Well, as she tells the story, his attendance at the street dance came to the attention of the church board, and since everyone knows that dancing is a very wicked, sinful activity, the Youth Pastor was fired.  To this day, my Mom will have nothing to do with that denomination.  Her reasoning?  If his job is taking Christ to the youth, shouldn’t he be where the youth are?  I can’t argue with that kind of reasoning, can you?

I recall a conversation with an irate lady who was upset because a couple of members of our church were smokers.  She wanted them straightened out or kicked out because smoking is a sin.  When I asked her how she knew that, she replied that it’s a sin because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  I thought that was interesting and asked her about the context of that verse (1 Cor. 6:19) She had no idea, but everybody knows it means you can’t smoke.  She turned bright red when I pointed out that in context, Paul is talking about sexual immorality in general, and sex with a prostitute in particular.  Sorry, smoking may be crazy, but it isn’t a sin (I’m a non-smoker and always have been).

These are the kinds of things Paul is addressing in this paragraph.  We have all sorts of “rules” that come from culture, from society and from religious traditions that have nothing to do with any Bible teaching.  Now it may be that there are certain things my conscience won’t permit me to do, but that doesn’t make it a “rule” for everyone else. Paul’s logic is simple and clear: We have died to sin, the Law and the ways of this world.  Why do we linger?  Stop it and follow Jesus Christ.

The end of the passage is quite interesting. All of these rules and traditions lack any value in restraining “sensual indulgence.”  Let’s try not to have our minds go straight to the gutter here, for “sensual indulgence” covers a lot more than sex.   Paul gives us some advice on how this can be done in the next chapter, and we’ll have a look at that next time…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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5 Responses to Following the “Rules”

  1. Kevin Riddle says:

    I used to work as a youth pastor with an outreach ministry and one thing we struggled against in our small town was the extreme “religious” mindset of many people. It seems tradition often trumps Scriptural truth and people are often certain of things even though there is no biblical basis for them. I pray that we, in the church, would get to a place where Scripture is our guide for living and not the things we think we know about God and His ways. He has spoken and it is up to us to listen and learn.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Well said- thank you!!

    • Citizen Tom says:

      The Bible is a book that everyone knows all about, but only a few people have actually bothered to read. Sad!

      I have a seen what smoking several packs a day can do to someone. Because it is so self-destructive smoking is a sin. Gluttony is a sin. Fornication is a sin. All kinds of things are sins because if we do these things they hurt us and those around us. However, following rules, an innumerable lists of does and don’ts, does not bring us closer to God. Just because someone doesn’t smoke doesn’t mean they won’t become a spendthrift or a drunkard. Just because someone seems perfectly disciplined does not mean they have found God.

      Paul was a Pharisee. He said he was a nearly perfect Pharisee. Yet he went around murdering Christians. Paul understood a bunch of rules, but he did not appreciate the spirit of the God who inspired those rules. What brings us closer to God, to understanding what He wants from us. Loving Him and then seeking to serve and obey Him. God does not want us to humble others in His name. He wants us to humble ourselves and gratefully love Him as “my” God.

  2. David Martin says:

    In my studies, I have come to the conclusion that the essence of Pharisee-ism is the creation of man-made rules (even though honestly from a sincere desire to live righteously before God), then using *those* rules as a *measure* of a person’s righteousness.

    The irony is, though, that those man-made rules are completely *worthless* in the pursuit of right living…

    Good word, Don.

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