No More Rules
But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. Revelations 2:14
Growing up, my wife and I were both pastor’s kids. We both grew up sitting quietly down front every Sunday morning in church. Pastor’s kids had to be well behaved – at least in church. As kids, we both had the experience of being called out by our fathers from the pulpit for messing around during the sermon. What now though? We’re grown up and our fathers aren’t at the pulpit anymore. No more rules. We can do whatever we want now.
I don’t remember when it started, but my wife and I have a game we still play almost exclusively in church. It’s the made-you-look game, where one of us makes an OK sign with our fingers and tries to get the other one to look. It’s immature. It’s childish. It’s the kind of thing we’d have gotten in trouble for 40 years ago. But now, we can get away with it. So we do. If you watch closely next Sunday, you might see it. No more rules.
It’s amusing when it comes to our church game, but this is a life problem for me. I clearly remember understanding as a kid, that because of Christ’s sacrificial death, I’d been forgiven for all time. I erroneously thought that this meant I could live however I wanted and get away with it. No more rules. Only that’s not what eternal forgiveness means. I’ve discovered, much to my sorrow, that doing whatever I want has painful consequences. I may be eternally forgiven and destined for heaven, but if I follow my self-destructive appetite, I still self-destruct here on Earth.
This was Jesus’ message in today’s passage. In it, he chastised those in the church at Pergamum for allowing some in the church to use their freedom in Christ as a license to sin. If we’re forgiven, we can live however we want. The Old Testament rules no longer apply. There was some truth to this. These early Christians were freed from the old rituals of animal sacrifice and ceremonial law. This, however, didn’t mean that there were no more rules – that they could now celebrate immoral, sinful behavior.
If we follow Christ, we are forgiven and we can know freedom in him. Following Christ though, is the exact opposite of doing whatever we want. We’re not created to use our freedom to sin, but rather to do God’s will. Only in doing so, may we truly understand what it means to be free.