Monday, November 3, 2008

Those Ever Present Gnat-Strainers

“I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.” (Psalm 119:96)

         Here we have a sure-fire cure for dogmatism on secondary things in the Christian life. Having spent a good portion of my own Christian life in a part of the Body of Christ that over time seemed to become more lax on Biblical directives, while at the same time becoming ever narrower in the matter of externals, this verse was a great eye-opener to me. It was especially distressing to find that many of the young people in this group could see the hypocrisy in this and were coming to the conclusion that the direct commands of Scripture could be lumped in with these so-called, all-important, externals. This, of course, led to cynicism, and in some cases, near-ruined lives.

         Like the Psalmist, I, too, “have seen an end to all perfection.” I have seen outward lives that bordered on asceticism, and inward fellowship with God that bordered on nonexistent. For, as I heard one preacher say, “Externals are often used to prop-up a weak inner life.”

It was recognition of the first part of this verse—that there was not, nor would there ever be, perfection in me or anyone else—that helped me to understand the second half: God’s commandments are “exceeding broad.” They, unlike the way to Heaven (Matt.7:13) are not nearly as narrow as some of us have been led to believe. Jesus maintained that His yoke was easy (Matt.11:30). Yet the Pharisees were determined to put a yoke upon the people of God that neither they, nor their fathers before them, were able to bear (Acts 15:10). 

        And they’re still at it. 

        Mark it well: eternal principles and Divine directives are essentials, worthy of genuine narrow-mindedness. Transitory externals, however, do not fall into this category. Those who cannot discern the difference will always be at the mercy of the “gnat-strainers,” and will end up swallowing anything…even a camel (Matt. 23:24). 

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