myth: usually a traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.
Myths are powerful. Often the struggle of myths is their competition with one another. Focusing on “…explain a practice, belief…”, we all know that there are plenty of practices and beliefs in church that people have. Many of these have been built up to such a point that the Gospel seems to lose to “the way things must be.” The Church of the Nazarene is no different (we’ll try to be careful walking on eggshells). The first Church of the Nazarene was “born” on the streets of Los Angeles’ Skid Row (or its equivalent). There was a huge problem with alcoholism and alcohol in general. So, one of the principles was no drinking, and it makes perfect sense. The Christian life was held up as an example to live up to, and one of the ways to escape the path of destruction was to stop drinking. Having a religious and social “contract” created a place of restoration and health.
However (you knew this was coming), the righteous rationale became a litmus test for holiness. If you consumed, sold, or make alcohol, you were obviously not holy. This sounds a little over the top, doesn’t it? Does that mean generations of Christians (including Paul’s successor, Timothy) were not holy? Of course not! There is an argument (questioned by many) regarding the alcohol content difference between Biblical wine and today’s wine, but that really isn’t the issue. If we took things to the extreme, we would only be holy if we were monks or nuns (or the Protestant equivalent). That seems pretty silly, too.
Let’s be clear. We can look around us and see alcohol (and many other things) are a significant problem. Alcohol (and those other things) can easily lead one away from family, church, and God. On the other hand, many of these things should not be presumed to do this. Do many of the troublesome things lead us away from Jesus? Absolutely! God is full of grace and mercy, and still constantly calls us to him, and away from those things we find tempting.
Alcohol is an easy one. What about the internet? The internet has enabled the destruction of many families and churches. There are many people addicted to the internet (or something on it). The church isn’t calling for the banishment of the internet (okay, there are probably local churches that are). In fact, the internet may be the greatest evangelism tool we’ve had since the printing press. Alcohol, the internet, food, money all have the potential to destroy humanity.
With that being said, then, what are we to do? Holiness isn’t just personal. John Wesley noted that holiness is only truly found in social holiness. That means we are all to be holy to/with/for each other. The rules of holiness, just like the rules of the Jews, are shadows of things to come. We are called to walk with each other toward Jesus. We are to study together, pray together, weep together, praise together, worship together. We are called to live as framily. Rules are easier than holiness. Rules are a checkbox to complete. Sadly, often when we complete the checkboxes we think we’re done. Until we’ve gone through the veil of death, we are never done walking the road of holiness toward Jesus.
1) Have you ever accused or thought of someone not being “holy” or living the “Christian Life”? Why? Was it a “rule”, or was it Scriptural?
2) Who are you walking with on the road of holiness? Are you actually talking to them about your holiness journey and theirs?