Thursday, October 2, 2014

When Not to Wash Our Hands

Washing your hands is a simple thing. But Jesus refused to do it when it became a legalistic requirement (Matthew 15:1-20). We are not obligated to simply go along with others' extra-biblical  rules (Colossians 2:16-23; Matthew 12:1-14; 1 Timothy 4:1-5). But we are also told to avoid judging or looking down on others who have different rules from us (Romans 14:1-12; 1 Corinthians 8:1-6; James 4:11,12). We are even told to go along with people's scruples to win them to Christ or keep them from stumbling (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 8:7-13; Romans 14:13-23). Bringing these together can be difficult. It can be particularly difficult in the corporate life of the church. There you have the additional problem that you are doing things together and what you do directly impacts others. How do we resolve this?

We need to start by asking if there is a clear command of God involved. It must be understood that God commanded what He intended to command, and we should not add to this ( Deuteronomy 4:5; Proverbs 30:6; Isaiah 8:20). Nor do historical examples in Scripture constitute commands. The Apostle Paul regularly preached at the synagogue first when entering a town (Acts 13:14; 14:1; 17:1,2). Does that mean today that when we plant a church in a town, we must first preach at a Jewish synagogue? Now if someone is clearly in disobedience to Scripture we must correct them with gentleness in accordance with Scripture (1 Peter 4:8; Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). But if it is not clear, we need to consider that we may not have all the answers and need to be careful of passing judgment on another (1 Corinthians 3:18-23; 4:3-5; Romans 2:1). Now I am convinced there are things we need to be willing to stand up for (Jude 3; Romans 16:17,18; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). But this should be reserved for the clear-cut issues (Galatians 1:8,9; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4), not unnecessary details.

However, it is possible to take matters to the opposite extreme and refuse to wash your hands for any reason. In defense of their legitimate freedom in Christ, some ignore all concern for others and for the weaker brother and insist that no one question anything they want to do. But Scripture says we should put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:1-11; Romans 12:9-21; Galatians 6:9,10) and should seek to preserve the order and unity of the church organization (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 14:40; Hebrews 13:17). I am convinced that there is a point where we have to not wash our hands. But we need to carefully consider what the issues involved are and when principle requires us to do this. So that we may not let someone run roughshod over our conscience, but may also try to be peacemakers who avoid blowing things completely out of proportion. It is frequently an act of love to lay aside our personal preferences for the benefit of others and not be continually refusing to wash our hands over minor issues.  

No comments:

Post a Comment