A SKIRT, HOSE, AND A STRAND OF PEARLS
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1
Converted Jews and Gentiles were having such a hard time getting along that Paul has to keep writing to them, urging them to love each other. He is asking the strong to be tolerant of the limited understanding of the weak. He is also asking the weak to embrace the strong – whom they believe to be in error. What does that look like? I’ll give you a personal example. First a little history.
It took our whole family a long time to move out of legalism. That was our history. We bore the pain of those who live under its umbrella; joylessness, discouragement, false guilt, and living defeated by others judgment. The way out was long and painful. To embrace new brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, those who had been portrayed as living in gross error, called for courage and a shift in spiritual paradigms. Most of the ‘lifestyle issues’ that had previously been labeled sinful, over time, became entirely neutral. Grace, in place of judgment, became the banner over our home.
The challenge came when I was called to re-visit the places and people who were still trapped by legalism. I will confess that my attitude stunk. I didn’t want to go. Disgust, that only covered hurt, still reigned in my heart. God had to work with me by calling me to travel, embrace, and teach those who live like those in my past.
Recently, I was invited to speak to a church to speak at their annual women’s conference. It was very conservative. The rules were stated up front. They only approved of one version of the Bible. The dress code was also mandatory. I decided, before praying about it, to turn down the invitation. Honestly, my flesh was groaning at the thought of it. But, God moved in my heart and told me to go. I changed all my scripture references, both in my notes, their handouts, and in PowerPoint, to the version of the Bible they required. I put together an outfit for the event; found a skirt in the back of my closet, dug for a string of pearls in the bottom of my jewelry box, and also realized I’d have to wrestle with a pair of hose and some shoes with a heel. When I came out of the bathroom dressed the morning of the conference, Elizabeth – my close friend and co-worker in this ministry said, “Who are you?”
Humor aside, God blessed that day. I loved the women and they were so appreciative (and acknowledged) the adaptations I had made to accommodate their invitation. We were united in our desire to see women come to Christ, love the Word, and live for His glory. On the major things, we could agree and celebrate. And, that was the whole point.
Legalism will always be tender subject for me. But you’re working on me to love like You love. Amen