Matthew 23:4 (New Living Translation) “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”
Over these past two years grace has continued to grow and has been spilling freedom into every area of my life. There comes a point where you begin to recognize the pressures you needlessly subjected yourself to under religion. Duties you were encouraged by your church to participate in or do, that although had good motive behind them were unbearable.
The Pharisees tried to the upmost extent to uphold the law. And one of the ways they did that was by building rules around the rules. For instance if the law said you shall not work on the sabbath, they came up with dozens of other rules that described what constituted as work. As you may have been taught in youth group, “Don’t be asking how close you can get to the edge, but get as far away from the edge as possible.”
Some churches unintentionally add unneeded pressures to our lives. We don’t always feel the freedom to question what the church leaders say because it seems as if we don’t respect God or want to be good christians.
I feel special compassion for college students who although are working hard at 40+ hours a week in school also feel the pressure to read their bibles an hour a day, exercise an hour (as their bodies are templates of the Holy Spirit), join a prayer group, participate in church events in addition to the weekly sermon, have time for friends and family, protect their health with sleep, etc… They feel pressure when they can’t get good grades because of the other priorities. They feel pressure when they can’t spend time with friends or family. They feel pressure and guilt when they can’t find enough time for God. And if they give into all these pressures, their health can suffer years down the road for lack of sleep.
You can respect God deeply and desire to live a life that’s pleasing to him and question some of the pressures church can subject you to.
Here are some examples I’ve found of things that although have some good in them turn out to be unhealthy pressures in the long run.
- Maintain constant bible reading time and possibly a devotional
- Maintain extended personal time with the Lord
- Attend and volunteer in church activities as often as you have time for
- Go to church every sunday
- Monitor your thoughts and make sure none of them are unholy
- Make sure you are evangelizing directly and spreading the gospel wherever you go.
- Give money to the church even if you are unable because God will pay you back.
- The christian side hug
- Make negative feelings nice
- Maintain a strict dress code
- Your cares, desires, and focus can’t be on worldly things (as defined by the church)
- The purity movement
My intention is not to be offensive but gracious. These things aren’t bad. But it becomes unhealthy when you have a period where you can’t fulfill one of these duties and then feel like you’ve disappointed God and feel guilty about yourself as a christian.
Colossians 2 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you…
20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.