Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Do You Measure Up?

“It’s a sin to be shy.” The normally kind church lady took my hands in hers, and in her sweetest voice shared her revelation with me. Even in my early teens, I had enough spiritual discernment to know bunk when I heard it. I withdrew my hands while she continued to “help” me not hide my light under a bushel but share it with the world. Her way.

I didn’t doubt God’s love for me. He was the One I could count on when I couldn’t count on anyone else. I knew her viewpoint was wrong. But, oh, how it hurt my already fragile teen psyche. Not until I was an adult, and learned about introvert and extrovert personalities, did I quit feeling “less than” around others simply because I wasn’t the bubbly one carrying the conversation. God hardwired me to shine my light in other ways that would probably drive an extrovert crazy. J

But inevitably, it’s always the not so well-meaning folks who feel they have to ensure someone else’s Christian life measures up by their own spiritual checklist.

The Bible is crystal clear on some sin—adultery, homosexuality, stealing, and murder, to name a few. Why? Because not only is their presence an abomination against God’s holiness, they are a reflection of the person’s spiritual condition.

Disputes arise over the interpretation of daily activity, beliefs, and lifestyles that aren’t specifically spelled out in the Bible as sin. The Apostle Paul refers to this as “disputable matters.”

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Romans 14:1-4)
In her book, "The Liberty of Obedience," Elisabeth Elliot writes that she thought she had a clear understanding of what sin was until she went to live with the Auca Indians who’d murdered her husband and four other missionaries. With no way to communicate verbally with them, she spent a year observing their lifestyle. The “savages” took care of their families, showed grace to one another, and lived by a moral code. Although adultery is rampant in western civilization, the Aucas wouldn't think of helping themselves to another man's wife. But…when Elisabeth’s husband had put his arm around one Indian to show affection, it meant that the missionaries were cannibals and had to be killed for the safety of the tribe. Elisabeth’s willingness to spank her toddler when she misbehaved was perceived as barbaric by the Indians. During her “quiet” year, Elisabeth wrestled with the concept of savage versus civilized. Her conclusion was that each culture has their own definition of disputable sin which often conflicts with other cultures. (Great little book that can be read in one sitting.)

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister…For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. (Romans 14:13, 17-18)
Recently, the media descended on George W. Bush about his parents’ public acceptance of gay marriage. I loved his response. Rather than disrespect his parents or restate his past stance, which has always been fairly clear, he said he was too busy trying to get the log out of his own eye to get the speck out of someone else’s. 

Do I know his heart? No. And I wouldn’t have condemned him if he’d restated his belief that marriage is a covenant union between one woman and one man, as ordained by God since the beginning of time.

Do I know for a fact his beliefs haven’t changed? No. But he took the high road when confronted with a situation that would have disrespected his family. God’s definition of marriage is clear in the Old and New Testaments, so Bush didn’t have to argue his position. A “gotcha” forum isn’t the place for that. Instead, he left it for God to judge each person’s heart involved.

The most important way we show our Christian character is through our fruit (Matthew 7:14-21). Instead of wielding a spiritual yardstick, we can come alongside fellow Christians and encourage their spiritual growth through Bible study and praying for discernment. If you ask, God will provide discernment through His Holy Spirit on matters. As Elisabeth Elliot said, to expect God to give us a rule book with every rule spelled out is to assume we’ll be spiritual dwarfs during our earthly residence. He wants us to seek His wisdom to grow spiritually.

What may be perfectly clear to one Christian may not be so clear to another. In her book “The Hiding Place,” Corrie ten Boom and her sister Nollie argue over whether lying to the Gestapo about hiding Jews was right or wrong. It was interesting to watch how each sister’s stance played out in their lives—both honoring God with the ultimate cause of protecting His people.

At times, we must take stands on issues of gray areas. God calls us to count the cost of our discipleship and be willing to buffet the storms, even inside of our Christian fellowship. In doing so, let’s be sure we have the Biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment to defend our stance in a loving way. One way to do this is to ask questions such as: Does this edify my (or others) Christian walk? Does my stance conflict with God's nature as portrayed all through Scripture? 

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19

Sometimes Satan’s most effective attack against God’s people is to set them against one another and divert from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). When we behave as Pharisees measuring our fellow Christians against a checklist, we’re not “going and making disciples.” Our time is better spent praying for true discernment of God’s will, sharing Jesus’ love, and working on the log in our own eye.

My friend, Christian writer Ginny Brant, recently spent time with Elisabeth Elliot, her husband Lars, and her daughter Valerie. (I’m trying not to be jealous.) The article and photos are amazing. I pray you’ll be as blessed as I am by Elisabeth’s inspiring story. Click here to read.

In honor of Elisabeth Elliot, who has made such an impact on my Christian journey, and her years as a faithful servant of Christ, I’m giving away a copy of her book, “Liberty of Obedience.” To be eligible for the drawing, leave a comment about the post or share a thought about how the Great Commission has impacted your life—either in showing the love of Christ to others or how someone shared Christ with you. Or you may simply leave a prayer request, if you have one. Please feel free to e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for your needs. J

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Comments posted by 8:00 a.m. EST Monday, 11/11/13, will be eligible for drawing. Winner announced on following blog post. Thanks!


  1. Laura this post really made me think on how I handle things. You really have lots of good scripture in this post. Really appreciate all your hard work.

    1. Thanks, Betty. I'm glad you enjoyed it and stopped by to leave a comment. God bless you.

  2. Timely post for me to read- thank you.

    I first read "The Hiding Place" in High School and I remember thinking I'd be more like Corrie. Years later I still think I'm still more like her- I love that you said they were both honoring God and God certainly used them all. Helps some of my 'guilt' at not always trusting God as I should. He knows my heart and His grace is enough.

    Great post.

    1. You're welcome. I also felt the same way in siding with Corrie when I first read the book. Later, I realized they both honored God by following their individual conscience. I think that is the essence of Romans 14. As you read The Hiding Place, you see that God had a very different role for Corrie and Nollie to fulfill. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! God bless.

  3. Laura
    Great Post---I guess the take home for me is that--We don't measure up--irregardless of how smugly we may feel about ourselves, culture etc
    Rom 3:23

    1. That's a fantastic takeaway, Chuck. When we're being smug, we're not displaying Christ for the world to see, only our own shortcomings. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  4. I found this post in a link up, way past the chance for the book ;), but I am glad I read this. It is something I will be touching on in my series on Love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. My second post in this series will be talking about patience with other Christians and this is one of the things I hit on, though briefly, in that post. The more 'mature' Christians should be patient with new Christians, it takes time to grow in your faith and God chooses when to convict you over certain things. As Christians the best things we can do to help others are: to live our lives so that they do not cause others to stumble (in the way God leads us too), pray for them, and as you said encourage them in study and prayer. Thanks for the post I thoroughly enjoyed it.