Keeping “Godly Homemaking” in Perspective

August 11, 2010 at 6:29 am (A Slice of Life, Attitudes, Homemaking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

Last night Nathaniel and I (along with Elijah) attended a Bible study where a man named Titus from Nigeria shared about what the Lord is doing in his country and the need for literacy so that people can read God’s word for themselves.  It was a wonderful presentation, and a great wake-up call to consider how we can be supporting the suffering body of Christ around the world–through prayer and giving.

During Titus’s presentation, he took a small portion of time to discuss the problem of finding clean water that is an everyday reality for most rural people in Nigeria (and all over Africa).  A picture popped up on the screen of a woman carrying a very large pot on her head–so that her family would have some to drink and some with which to wash clothes.  This of course had an impact on my heart, realizing how incredibly blessed we are to have clean, running water, and how important it is to consider the needs of others, but it also made me think of how foolish we can be sometimes over here in the West, trying to paint an elusive picture of the perfect homemaker…of the “godly” homemaker.

The women in the picture had to walk miles for the water they needed, carrying a large pot and sometimes a little baby the whole way.  This could take HOURS.  Imagine if three or four hours of your day were spent walking and gathering water.  Would you have time to pursue “godly” hobbies like sewing or knitting or baking cookies?  Would you have the time to attend a ladies brunch and Bible study?  Would you have the time to post to your blog (assuming you do not have a smart phone)?  Would you have time to teach your kids Latin?  Make all of your own clothing?  Prepare every meal from scratch?  Would you have the money to buy only organic produce (because, of course, that is the most “godly” thing to do)?

How can a Christian woman in Africa be “godly” when she cannot do all the things that many conservative Christians in the West say a “godly” homemaker should be doing?

These thoughts only added to a lesson my Father has been teaching me lately.  Being a godly wife and mother isn’t about being the best housewife on the street, it’s about being godly in the role God has given me as a wife and mother.  It’s not about the outward stuff, as though the kingdom of God consisted in eating and drinking…or frugal shopping or an 1800’s-like lifestyle or wearing nice clothes.

The kingdom of God is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

I’m afraid we can get all too consumed with outward tasks and outward adornment (modest, of course), and outward actions, that we forget about the fruit of the Spirit.  That we fail to be godly because God is barely in the equation anymore.

Being godly starts with God.  It starts with His work in humble hearts.  Seeking Him is of far greater value than making your own bread or using cloth diapers or growing your own organic vegetable garden.

The point here is not that any of these things is wrong.  The point is that they do not make you godly.  Nor are you ungodly if your house doesn’t look or function just like Susie Homemaker’s.   Godliness is seeking Yahweh, being empowered by the Spirit and motivated by love to obey God and joyfully serve Him in whatever life-situation or role you find yourself in.  It speaks more to attitudes than to actual tasks.

So let’s revisit our Christian wife and mother in Nigeria.  How can she be godly?  She undoubtedly rises early to prepare food for her household.  She praises God for His provision.  She cares for the needs of her husband and children–her heart is grateful to God for them and compassionate towards them.  She walks however long it takes to find water for her family.  And along the way she is perhaps meditating on what little bit of Scripture she has access to this week.  Or maybe she sings praises.  Or maybe she delights in the sunshine or rain that her Father has given her that day.  She lovingly nurses her infant, and shares what she knows about Jesus with other women along her path.

She may be very godly.  And all you would see is a woman walking a long way to get water.  And then working hard when she returned home.  A woman who, at the end of the day, may have nothing more to show for all of her labor than this:  she, her husband, and her children … are still alive.

(Assuming they were not attacked by Muslims that day because of their faith in Jesus–another reality of the Christian life in Nigeria).

She is godly because she is filled with the Holy Spirit of God and manifests the fruit of His work in her heart.  She may not know as much as you and I about theology.  She may not even be able to read the Bible for herself–only clinging to the slivers of light that came through the teaching she heard at the small gathering of believers that she attended earlier that week.  But every word of God that she finds, she devours.  And she trusts in Him to provide and protect, and to keep His promises.

May we consider that our Western, task-driven, formulaic, and sometimes legalistic view of what it means to be a godly woman might just crumple when held up to the light of God’s word.  We are not to compare ourselves with each other or with a cultural ideal.  We are to seek the Living God.  May we be Spirit-filled believers who put the skills and gifts God has given us to good use in the roles that He has placed us in.

More to come on this subject…

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Part Two: Getting Specific Without Being Legalistic

August 21, 2008 at 1:17 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , )

I had been planning to jump right into the situations in which girls tend to compromise their standards, but being as “tricky” a subject as this is, I’ve decided to make one more post before I get in over my head.

As the title of this post suggests, my goal in dealing with this issue of applying God’s principles for dress to our daily life (including special occasions or activities) is to get specific without being legalistic.

But is that even possible? I had to ask myself that question before I ever began to write this series. I want to tread very lightly on the issue of specifics when it comes to the way we dress. Legalism is a trap and a snare, bringing bondage and either self-condemnation or self-righteousness rather than freedom to enjoy the love and grace of God we’ve received through Christ (see Liberty and the Christian). I know, I’ve been there—I want nothing to do with legalism anymore!

That said, if we only talk in principle (“Be modest and discreet in attitude and dress!”) but don’t get specific (for example, “Dressing to show off your body is a wrong motive,” or “That shirt is rather revealing.”), then we probably end up preaching to the choir, only to hear a hearty “Amen!” from readers who go on wearing things that will trip up their brothers in Christ. I’ve seen it happen. Many a Christian young lady will take up the hip motto, “Modest is Hottest”, while sporting clothing that is hardly an improvement upon the world’s party scene. They look no different. They may not dress like prostitutes, which I guess makes them more modest than some, but they miss the practical application of modesty even though they enthusiastically support the principle.

So can you see how it is important to get specific? That’s really where discipleship and Titus 2 comes in: older women are to instruct the younger women. The best place to deal with specifics is in a discipleship relationship, where challenges can be made and advice offered in a loving way, seeking to build one another up. I’m not much older than most of you—I’m younger than several, to be sure!—but God has convicted me concerning the way I’ve dressed in the past, and He’s given me a desire to communicate the wisdom I’ve gained in this area to help girls make wise decisions in regard to the way they dress—and to do it for the glory of God. So just imagine that I’m a (slightly) older sister in the Lord, who cares deeply about you and your walk with Him (which I do!), and take what I say as loving counsel (which it is) rather than condemnation (which it certainly is not!).

I have been hesitant to begin discussing the specifics because I know that inevitably some will be offended. I pray that this would not be the case, and that is why I have made this post first—so that you know that my intention is not to condemn anyone, nor to set up a standard for you to follow (that’s why I dealt with the Scripture in my last post and asked you to set your own standards based on what God has clearly commanded). My intention is to make you think about things in a way that perhaps you have not considered up to this point; to make you evaluate the way you dress in certain situations, and to challenge you to be consistent with what you believe, no matter the circumstances. That is the heart of this discussion on situational modesty.

So please, take to heart what I have to say in these next few articles, really considering what I share before reacting to it. I ask you to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” and remember that “fools despise wisdom and instruction” (James 1:19, Proverbs 1:7). After you have considered what I have to say, please feel free to comment, sharing your thoughts or calling me to account if I have been in the wrong. I will seek to write in such a way as to give grace to those who read (Eph. 4:29), so please take it as such and be gracious in return. Thank you, ladies! I love you in Christ!
part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

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Part Three: Seven Principles for FREEDOM

July 19, 2008 at 3:13 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

We all want a solid line, chalked in bright yellow on the pavement. A line to define the difference between obedience and legalism. Between freedom and sin. Once upon a time God drew yellow lines in the sand, but we crossed them anyway. Laws do not keep us from crossing, they only reveal to us that we have crossed. Usually our thoughts have crossed ahead of our feet. Under grace, God has left many lines up to us to draw, with the measuring-stick of holiness to guide us. Always our highest aim should be to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“How will my exercise of freedom most bring glory to God?”

Seven important principles line that ruler, to help us determine where our freedoms extend in each circumstance. Is the scripture silent about the issue? No prohibitions? No commands? Let’s run it through a filter of principles for glorifying God.

F. The Fire Principle (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

When my works come before Jesus, will this be burned away as chaff, or is it something Jesus can reward?

R. The Reputation Principle (1 Corinthians 10:23-29)

Do I seem inconsistent with Christianity to my unsaved neighbor? (“So what? You’re just like us.”)

E. The Evangelism Principle (1 Corinthians 9:1-27)

Does it help or hinder the gospel? Would exercising my liberty allow me to reach farther or would it cause offense or confusion?

E. The Edification Principle (1 Corinthians 14:12, 26)

Does it build up my fellow believers?

D. The Destruction Principle (1 Corinthians 8:7-13)

Instead of simply not building up, could it tear down fellow believers? Could it cause a brother to sin or violate his own conscience?

O. The Obstacle Principle (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1)

Does it offend anyone? Create an obstacle between them and the Lord? (We’re not talking about conforming to the heavy rules of others—Jesus wasn’t afraid of offending the Pharisees. We’re talking about honoring the convictions of those who might be led into temptation or caused to blaspheme through your actions.)

M. The Master Principle (1 Corinthians 6:12-13)

Yes, it’s permitted, but is it profitable? Yes, it’s allowed, but is it an addiction? Does it compete with Christ for a place in my heart? Does it enslave me, master me, control me or cause me to do its bidding?

Solid lines, painted by someone else, disguise invisible chains. We’re not to be enslaved again to the weak and elemental things of the world. To empty practices. To forms of godliness with no power. Our freedom in Christ is given, not as an opportunity for the flesh, but to allow us to serve one another in love. By understanding and limiting or exercising our liberty, we find an amazing freedom: to fellowship in unity with Christians from other cultures or backgrounds, to be diverse in our manifestation of the Holy Spirit, to reach out to unbelievers in purity and truth, to avoid addictions and sins and to love as Jesus loved.

Liberty isn’t about being lawless—free from all law. It’s about being free from the dominion of sin—free to choose the right thing to do, and to do it.

Disclaimer: Parts of this post have been shamelessly stolen from teachings by my father, Lane.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

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Part Two: The Pharisee and the Weak Brother

July 18, 2008 at 2:15 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

Every coin has two sides. Legalism is no exception. On the one hand we have the legalist who ties up heavy burdens to place on the backs of others, controlling the lifestyles of others directly. I introduce you to the Pharisee. On the other stands the one who is bowed down by an imagined burden (often placed there by someone else), terrified to move or grow for fear he might step over that line into sin. Please welcome the Weak Brother. I’m not creative enough to have invented these characters on my own—we find them in the pages of scripture.

Meet the Pharisee (2 Timothy 3)

Our most dangerous advocate for extra rules is the Pharisee, who mirrors the Jewish legalists of Jesus’ day. Jesus told them, “You nicely set aside the word of God for the sake of your traditions.” The greatest commandment is to “Love Yahweh with all your heart, soul and mind” and the second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In creating rules and regulations that go beyond Scripture, the Pharisee becomes an idolater, more interested in legalities (and his own power through them) than in glorifying the Lord or tending His lambs. Jesus said loving Him equals obeying His commands, but His commands are not burdensome. The Pharisee’s rules are heavy and overbearing, while the Pharisee himself, like an unjust lawyer, is always looking for loopholes to disobey God. (Check out Galatians 2:4 on the issue of circumcision.)

While building laws of the letter, the Pharisee misses the purpose of God’s commands. He reads “Don’t get drunk, for that is wasteful” and forbids the use of any alcohol, while wasting time, resources or health in some other fashion. He won’t be seen with a neighbor who drinks, missing opportunities for the gospel, and he refuses to visit a church that uses wine for communion, shutting out fellowship. She wears skirts to her ankles and pins her hair up underneath a veil, but is loud, obnoxious, flirtatious or rude.

Jesus constantly collided with the Pharisees of His day. Thy rebuked His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath. “You’re harvesting!” The Sabbath had been created as a day devoted to God—and the disciples were in His presence, learning of Him. Jesus told the Pharisees in no uncertain terms that the silly rules they’d made up to define work were legalistic. By the same legalism they would deprive a sick man of healing on the Sabbath. “Can’t I do good on the Sabbath?” Jesus demanded. Did it tire Him out to heal a man? He was worn out only with the Pharisees endless nitpicking. Did the Pharisees keep the Sabbath holy? Tell me, is plotting the death of the Son of God good or evil?

The Pharisee has a deadly disease of the heart. He wishes to appear godly to others, to gain sway over others, to rule by rules. What’s the cure? Jesus spared nothing in His dealings with them. Let the word of God cut and convict. A tumor like the one festering in a Pharisee’s heart can only be removed by the sharp blade of Jesus’ words.

Meet the Weak Brother (1 Corinthians 8-10)

This form of legalism is simply the surfacing of ignorance, frequently fueled by past experiences or traditions, sometimes aggravated by the Pharisee. Paul tells us the Weak Brother simply doesn’t understand the freedom he has in Christ. He feels safer surrounded by rules that may keep him from temptation, but in his mind, breaking these rules has become a sin. How can he, in good conscience, be free to cross his imagined boundaries?

Paul speaks of meat sacrificed to idols. The Weak Brother of our day recalls his days of Rock and Roll and feels guilty when his toes tap time to Christian Rock. He trembles to think of Christian brothers smoking peace pipes in Turkey. For the man with ghosts in his past, avoiding certain things may be necessary to prevent his stumbling. Who am I to condemn him for choosing a path of abstinence? My part is to uphold him and honor his convictions and avoid causing him to violate his conscience.

The Weak Brother desires to please the Lord, so he creates rules that will keep him from displeasing the Lord. At an appropriate time, show him the truth of liberty in scripture. This form of legalism is more of an allergic reaction: give him a heavy dose of the truth and a washing with the water of the word, frequently, until symptoms subside.

Where Do You Fit In?

Most of the accusations of legalism actually spring from a pricked conscience, convicting of sin or calling to obedience and holiness. For those who simply hold personal convictions or practices to keep them from temptation, who am I to judge the servant of another? To his own Master he stands or falls. The choice to limit Christian liberty is personal—it’s between you and God. The choice to obey is not. God is a particular God. He seeks devotion as evidenced by literal obedience, springing from a heart full of love for Him.

Almost humorously, there are those who become legalistic about avoiding legalism. They grow to worship a definition of legalism, giving it greater importance than obeying the Lord or loving others. “Don’t be legalistic!” they shout, and toss out God’s commands. Beware the deceivers, who use the grace of God as an excuse for licentiousness.

Worried about appearing legalistic to others? First: it is God whom you serve, and those who are serving the world (“believers” or not) will not appreciate your obedience because it convicts them. Second: if you are seeking the Lord and desiring obedience to Him, you’ll find yourself upholding the greater commandments. The Pharisees were legalistic, tithing dill and cumin but neglecting mercy. Legalism can’t abide with love, since its very nature dishonors God and others. Seek the Lord devotedly, study His word diligently, interpret it carefully, apply it faithfully and teach others to do the same and you will stand approved and unashamed at the coming of our Lord.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

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Part One: Let’s Not Be Legalistic

July 17, 2008 at 6:00 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

Start living in radical obedience to the word of God and, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself slapped with that infamous label: legalist. Because anything beyond Christian Status Quo is unnecessary. Threatening. Convicting. Legalistic.

“We’re free in Christ,” comes the popular complaint. True that. We are free in Christ. Not from Christ. Liberty does not equal lawlessness (check out Romans chapter six). Our Christian liberty boils down to freedom from three things: sin (both penalty and power, see Romans 3-6), the Mosaic Law (Romans 7:1-6) and nonessentials (Colossians 2:16). Does our freedom mean we have no master? Not at all. Sin is no longer master over me, but I’ve become a slave to righteousness. I’m no longer under the Mosaic Law, instead I’m under grace—the law of love. The commands of Christ are given to be obeyed—no longer in a spirit of fear, leading to slavery, but in a spirit of love, springing from our adoption as sons.

It’s that last freedom—those nonessentials—that seem to be troublesome. Where is the line between many commands of scripture and the nonessentials? When have we crossed from modest to immodest? From pure to impure? From sober to drunk?

The overwhelming fear is that we may become “legalistic” in drawing our lines. That we might build a hedge around the commands of Christ, just as the Pharisees built a hedge around the law. That we might come to enshrine and worship obedience instead of Christ. In our fear, we push aside obedience and seek to worship freely—meaning, freestyle. But God seeks for those who will worship in Spirit and truth.

I couldn’t find any “legalism” terms in my Bible, but what I found was the description of something that expresses neither Spirit or truth. Simply stated, legalism is clinging to law. Expand the thought and it looks something like this: the dangerous habit of creating rules that go beyond Scripture—and claiming they have the same (or greater) authority as Scripture, usually for the purpose of forcing them on others. Often these are personal convictions that are healthy, holy and honorable, as long as they are held in secondary importance. We are commanded to flee temptation. Any guidelines we make for ourselves to help us stay out of the way of stumbling are pure and not to be criticized. We are to be holy as God is holy, not to walk as close to sin as possible in order to prove that we are strong enough to resist it.

Issues arise when our personal convictions become laws that bind us—or others. I try to force my personal convictions on others through my words or actions insinuating that, did they love Jesus, they would come to the same personal convictions. I look down on those with differing convictions as “less spiritual”. My convictions hinder fellowship because I am unwilling to lay them aside for another’s sake, or am unaware that I have the freedom to do so. In this, behold the legalist.

Legalism, like most sins, is a disease of the heart. It’s not the fruit of devoted love for Jesus or radical obedience to His commands. Instead it is a devotion to my own religious zeal. Its root is pride and its fruit is division. But the cure is simple: study God’s word—what it actually says—and obey it. Seek to understand God, His commands, His principles and His desires. Plead for His Spirit’s strength to be like Him. And, above all else, exercise love, which is the perfect bond of unity and will cover a multitude of sins.

Disclaimer: Parts of this post have been loosely adapted from teachings by my father, Lane.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

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