Today’s post reveals part of my personal story. The truth revealed in this post was the beginning of new life for me. I hope you find value in it too.
When I was a child, I was told the test of true religion was a list of Nine Nasties every good boy avoided. Playing cards was among the Arch-Nasties. Each card was supposedly a demonic symbol with the power to condemn the soul to eternal torment. Even today I can hear the gates of Hades begin to creak open at the sound of a shuffling deck.
Even such innocent diversions as Old Maid were taboo. The reasoning went like this: Someone might peek in the window, see the backs of the cards, and assume you were using the regular demonic deck.
Cards were only the beginning of the slippery slope to purgatory.
One dance step and you’d be dancing your way to the fiery pit. Didn’t it say somewhere in the Holy Scriptures that praying knees were never connected to dancing feet? Wait, sounds like a good concept for a movie; maybe with penguins as characters. Even when singing hymns, we avoided rhythmic movement. Turning bodies became burning bodies.
This is my point,
Christianity isn’t defined by a list of taboos.
Too often the emphasis is on a short, convenient set of perceived sins to avoid, rather than on a vibrant life altering relationship with a living God.
Each denomination and sub-denomination had there own variation of the Nine Nasties. Some defied reason. When she was a little girl, Diane was told that lipstick was made of snake’s blood. Nylon stockings were the shed skins of the Serpent—not just any serpent, but The Serpent with a capitol S.
At about the age of eleven, I had a unique experience.
I was sitting on the porch frying ants with a magnifying glass and contemplating the deeper aspects of snake theology. Ralph, my collie dog, walked by. Suddenly I had a revelation: Ralph didn’t smoke, drink, or play cards; nor did he wear nylons or lipstick. If avoiding those activities defined a Christian, then Ralph was a better Christian than I was. I’d never succumbed to the temptation to wear lipstick or nylons, but Lord knows I’d experimented with playing old maid behind closed doors.
It’s living, breathing, occasionally stumbling lovers of Christ who make a difference in this world. Yes, strong faith leads to good conduct—and there are a many things that are prudent to avoid. But God’s list of behavioral commandments is relatively short, and it’s written in stone. Obedience to those commandments isn’t the mark of a Christian; it’s simply a byproduct. The genuine mark of a believer is love — love for each other and for the Father. All other Christian behavior flows from that experience.
It’s not about the Nine Nasties, it’s about one amazing God and his love for us. That understanding has changed my life forever.
“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
Commmandments’” (Matthew 22:37). “‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’” (John 13:34).
If you haven’t taken my survey please do so now. I really need and want your input.