By Grant Phillips

I like to watch people. It can be a very interesting sideline. I'm sure that I too am included in others people-watching ventures, and they probably get a few chuckles from me also.

There is one group of people within Christianity though who seem to be the self-appointed “You Can't Do That Sheriffs”. They are those who have the church voice of a funeral home director, the sweet expression of dear old mother, a twenty pound King James Version Bible tucked under one arm (and properly positioned over the heart by the way), a menacing scowl glaring down that long proboscis, and the long index finger of Mr. Grinch pointing at the offending party. God forbid if you are the offending party.

Before proceeding any further, I do need to make clear my position. I am not anti-church discipline. Actually, many churches today are lacking in church discipline. I will comment on this in the next paragraph. I am not for everyone just “doing their own thing” in their respective spiritual lives, because there is one guideline. It is called the Bible. There is one, and only one, we are to be like. His name is Jesus.

Let me say concerning church discipline that there may be times that the church needs to activate church discipline when one or more of the members are out of line. For example, when members are fighting among themselves or gossiping, they are causing division within the local church. It needs to be addressed in a Christ-like manner. When members are living together out of wedlock, or coming to the services half dressed, it needs to be addressed in a Christ-like manner. But too many times, this turns to metamorphosis in reverse. Metamorphosis is the process where a butterfly changes from a caterpillar to a butterfly. The butterfly is beautiful. The caterpillar is ugly. Church discipline can be beautiful in the sense of keeping the local church going in the direction of Christ's footsteps. It gets ugly when it is reduced to being a busybody.

Now back to the self-appointed sheriffs, the busybodies. I am not sure if these people think they are God's watchmen on the wall, or are just plain miserable and want everyone else to be miserable too. These long-faced, hiding in the shadows “Christians” are just waiting to pounce on any conceivable act  that doesn't fit in their rule book. Sometimes these dear folks seem so sad, rigid, and expressionless, one is tempted to drop an ice cube down their shorts to see if they are among the living. Come on folks! Christianity is not something to be uptight about. Christ has set us free! If Christ has set us free, we are free indeed! Get a life!

Is there anywhere in the Bible that refers to these miserable souls? Try the Pharisees. Then ask, where should I start? I am reminded of the woman caught in adultery that the Pharisees brought to Jesus to condemn. They said to Jesus concerning her, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act”. I've always wondered where they were when they caught her …  “in the very act”. Hmm.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law and satisfy its requirement for punishment of sin. Only He could do that. He freed us from the Law and today we are not under the Law. The book of Romans is very clear on this. The Pharisees wanted to keep everyone under the Law. Modern day Pharisees (the self-appointed  sheriffs) want to do the same. Jesus wants to set us free, but we can only be free in Him.

Many years ago, a young lady I witnessed to, went to the church she normally attended and confessed that she wanted to be a Christian and follow Jesus Christ. They accepted her into their membership and immediately proceeded to inform her of all the things she would have to give up, change and add in order to be a Christian and remain a Christian. She informed me the next day, that they had gotten her so miserable and confused, she didn't know where to turn. So we had to hit the Book (the Bible) again to show this dear battered soul that Jesus Christ had set her free, and that Jesus Christ is her guide, not these long-nosed Pharisaical in-your-face busybodies.

I have lost count of the many times I have heard of some well-meaning Christian telling someone of the things they would have to give up, change or add in order to be a Christian. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast”. Salvation is free and cannot be earned … period. Free means free. Also, if we have truly become a child of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the same grace from God that saved us, will keep us from falling (Jude 1:24). As a baby grows in its physical body and mind, so will the newborn babe in Christ grow in their spiritual life. Will they sin? Yes (1 John 1:10). Can they ask forgiveness and be forgiven? Yes (1 John 1:9). Are they still God's child? Yes (John 10:29-30). So do not permit the religious bullies to browbeat you into submission to their erroneous false gospel.

Christians are not perfect. As it has been said by others, Christians are simply saved sinners. How should I behave as a Christian? Be yourself. Jesus does not want to change our personalities. He wants us to be ourselves, and as He lives in us, we will begin taking on His traits, but with our own personalities. Have you ever noticed that the more you are around someone, such as husband and wife, the more you become like them? However, you are still you. We do not have to put on a spiritual show to be a maturing Christian.

Please notice as you read the Gospels, that Jesus did not condemn the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the cursing fisherman, the publicans, etc. (And He had a right to!) He forgave them. The Pharisees condemned them though, but the only ones Jesus condemned were the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes (Matthew 23) … the self-appointed religious sheriffs of that day.

Another way, for example, that some Christians today seem to gage others' spirituality is by curse words. They brag about the fact they do not curse, and of course, all the other things they say they do or do not do. Pride however, is a greater sin than uttering a curse word (Proverbs 6:16-19). (Now let me interject that I am not saying let's all start cursing [“cussin” for us hillbillies] since pride is a worse sin.) The point is, being a Christian is not how often you “cuss”, the clothes you wear, the make-up you don't wear, the length of your hair, and all the zillion other things that are laid on people. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. He accepts us where we are and in whatever condition we may be in. If we need cleaning up (and we all do), His water is pure and sparkling. As we grow in Him, He will clean us up. It is not my duty or ability to clean you up spiritually, or yours to clean me up spiritually. We cannot do that anyway.

So how should I behave as a Christian? Should I speak with a sad, broken-hearted voice? Should I look like I just swallowed a lemon? Should I act like a clown at a circus? Should I act one way in the local church gathering, but another in public? Where do we go from here? Be yourself, wherever you are. Spend a lot of time with Jesus in prayer and Bible study, while ignoring and praying for the embalmed accusers. Lighten up. Relax. You might just enjoy being a Christian.


Grant Phillips