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Standards of Righteousness

It has amazed me through the years how the issue of personal separation for the Christian has become increasingly cultural and less biblical in some circles – particularly among various segments of the church in North America. Certainly a sincere Christian wants to be “separated” from worldliness and define his standards of conduct by the Bible. However, some of what we see being defined as “separation standards” for the Christian border on the ludicrous. As a Baptist, I honestly think some of my friends have taken leave of their senses. And to make matters worse, some in the Baptist world are ignoring or easing off major standards of righteousness, which no Christian should excuse or condone. In recent years there have been a surprising number of preachers – some well-known and prominent – in both the evangelical and traditional church world who have fallen not only into sexual sin, but in some cases into sexual perversion and criminal sexual conduct. If ever the time was here to “Cry aloud…and show my people their sin,” as God said to Isaiah, this is it. But we are seeing believers continue to follow some of these fallen men, some defend or excuse them, or quote them approvingly as if they are still good examples of Christian leadership – or even protect them legally in the name of defending the church. We should not be afraid to declare that such sexual conduct is an abomination in the eyes of God. As a preacher – and as a grandfather, I do not want to be associated with such perversion in any way, shape or form. We are called to maintain a godly standard of righteousness! Any other approach is a complete dereliction of our biblical duty. On the mission field in Irian Jaya (Papua New Guinea), Indonesia, outstanding and godly evangelical missionaries have taught the tribesmen who come to Christ how to follow personal standards of righteousness. In coming out of a “heathen” culture, the tribesmen are challenged to burn all charms and fetishes of false worship, stop all devil or demonic worship, and to put away attitudes of revenge and tribal warfare, along with all trial marriages, multiple wives, and bride payments. These are the standards of biblical discipleship taught in the jungles of Indonesia. But here in America we have preachers who hold up cultural standards which too often have little to do with righteousness – such as personal grooming (length of hair), dress code (not modesty but style), and what version of the Bible one uses (never mind that it’s impossible to use any English version in the Indonesian jungle). Such legalistic prohibitions usually include going to a movie theater, even to see a movie about Jesus (which they then watch at home and deliberately show on the mission field – with great success), dancing in any form (II Samuel 6:14; Psalm 149:3; et al) or playing table games (cards) with your family, etc. Such preachers are so “separated” they refuse to enter the “market place” (as the Apostle Paul did) but would rather ignore the public debate even over such salient issues as Christian movies. A few years ago when much of American society was discussing the movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” one Christian editor wrote that he had no opinion on the movie because he does not attend movies. When “The Passion of the Christ” first came out, I knew a preacher who would not attend a theater to see it – that would be a violation of his standard of “separation” – but he successfully “pirated” a copy of the movie so he could show it illegally to friends and family. (I’m not making this stuff up!) In regard to Christian ethics, I even heard a preacher teach publicly that it is wrong to “foul” intentionally on the basketball court as a game strategy. Do you wonder why I say some of my friends have taken leave of their senses? I was in a graduate class where a preacher proudly announced that when divorced people visit his church, “we just tell them where we stand” – with the clear implication that anyone who has been divorced can go somewhere else to church. Wow, what a message of hope and redemption! How is that biblical? Amazingly, some of the same circles, who assume they are advanced well beyond the primitive cultures of Indonesia, continue to wink at immoral perversion in the pulpit and insist on these innocuous so-called “personal standards” of righteousness. Heaven help us!
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