Jim - How about a question already? Is it some sort of reverse legalism to absolutely not celebrate or acknowledge Christmas or Easter? My son and daughter in law go to an independent Baptist church that does not celebrate these although their beliefs are fundamental. They are very legalist in other ways - such as rebaptism for adults who have even had believer's baptism but not in their church, and closed communion. We do not want these issues to ever come between us but should they ask what is the answer? Thanks! Joanie
I hear you about not wanting these issues to come between you. Now, I will give you my thoughts on what you asked, but as far as giving you an answer in case they do come up is not something I am able to do. Instead, I can only remind you of Jesus' encouragement to His disciples to not worry about what to say since the Spirit would teach them what to say. You see, such issues are merely a covering for something deeper ... and it is regarding these matters of the heart which the Spirit speaks to us. The answer is always Christ, but the answer of Christ always touches gut-level reality and rarely sounds at all technical or religious. So, what I'm saying is that when these issues come up (and something tells me they will) listen very carefully to what is really going on or to what triggered the confrontation, and then be prepared to answer them with the reason of the hope that is in you, which is Christ. I have also learned that a good answer usually involves questions that zero in on the reality of life and that open up a door for communication and understanding. Now, as to my thoughts on their church edict to not celebrate certain holidays I think you have hit the nail on the head with calling it reverse legalism. :) I know these churches base their practices on the writings of Paul (among others) where he warned them about the keeping of religious holidays. But at the time they were beginning to celebrate the JEWS' Sabbath days and holy days (not the days they grew up celebrating) because they were getting caught up in the technicalities of the law. Now, this might often be the reason many celebrate religious holidays today, and there is a definite place to question the why behind it. And when Paul questioned it he tied it all together with their legal-minded tendencies. BUT the fact is that since Paul's warnings have now become canonized we now have new laws of not keeping these holidays - and so to enforce the abstaining of celebrating holidays has the same legal effect as the reverse. The absoluteness of the practices to not celebrate Christmas and Easter has become just as legal-minded as what was going on with the reverse in Paul's day. How Paul dealt with the Romans with the keeping of a special day to the Lord had to do with the attitudes of judging or despising (from Romans 14) At that time, those who felt strongly about holding a certain day to the Lord were still having issues from their previous law-bound living. They considered those who held no preference as not being as dedicated as they and therefore judged them in their lack (This attitude still continues). To them, Paul said simply to hold their day as to the Lord, but not to judge those who didn't. Remember, our unrighteous judging is based on standards by which we base rightness, which is, of course, legalism. Now, those who did not hold any day as more important than another did so because they realized freedom in Christ. But many of these saw themselves as stronger in this grace opposed to those weaker believers who still observed a special day to the Lord. That is exactly why I think Paul worded it as he did because it is how the grace people were describing the legal people. What did Paul tell them? Simply to continue not keeping the day with the realization that it was unto the Lord that they didn't keep it. And then he told them not to despise their brother who held to such a day. To despise is to look down upon for weakness. What causes despising? Well, it's kind of like reverse legalism!! hahaha!! It is the, I'm not keeping the law, but you are! claim to a higher level of spirituality. But it all stinks of self-righteousness and/or condemnation. And it all becomes a form of judging.
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4
What Paul did in addressing these specific issues among them was to show the absoluteness of grace in our relationships with one another. Do you realize that for one to hold a day as personally special between he & the Lord while at the same time not holding anything against a brother who doesn't (and maybe even who despises him for doing it) leaves him with no option but to realize that God causes each to stand because of Christ. Then, on the other hand, for one who observes no day above another and yet does not despise his brother who does (especially if that brother is judging him for his lack of day keeping), is also left in the realm of the miraculous life of Christ who also causes that brother to stand. You see, all that judging and despising is found outside the reality of Christ. As each is growing in the awareness of this reality, the fact of the God who causes His own to stand continually forces us to see the reality of Christ, who has died and risen and is the one we have been brought into fellowship with. Though we may seem so different from one another based on the outward, it turns out that all is a matter of the condemnation of the law vs. the life of the Spirit. To hear past all the bogus temporary stuff is where the Spirit leads. :) Re-baptism for adults who have even had believer's baptism but not in their church, and closed communion are two results of that elitism that sees itself as the stronger. Once again, the reality of our common fellowship in Christ is key between us. Paul's common declaration was that all who have been justified by Christ are one. we are the ones who keep trying to make the distinctions, but it turns out that those distinctions are what we use to hold ourselves above another, when instead, by seeing the reality of what Christ has done we are able to see that we have no basis upon which to view one another anymore!! Jim Minker