I’ve been wrestling with Paul’s instruction to Timothy lately.
“No one should despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
In my attempt to free my relationship with Jesus from the shackles of rituals and rules that seek to imprison it in a cage of predictability and control, I live in freedom and love wildly. This right because the Son has set me free and I am free from the law indeed. And it is great. Free to go where ever necessary while on journey with God, my interactions with the Spirit grow, I am constantly challenged to join Him in His work where the chains rituals and rules would restrict my progress, and my love for Him is renewed daily.
But on occasion though I will look up to see that my freedom is confusing others in a negative way and I’m force to ask myself, “Is this best? Is this loving? Am I causing another to stumble? Have I gone to far?” In those moments Paul’s words “be an example” clang like a gong in my ears.
So, of course, I’m tempted to do the wrong thing – to strap back on the shackles of legalism, to create for myself rituals and rules that will encourage me to be “good”, to allow my weekly practices to define my relationship with Christ.
This is the odd balance I walk with the Spirit. While seeking to join others in their lives and be all things to all people (1st Corinthians 9), I must also keep a disciplined regimen so that I might be above reproach. The key is remembering that rituals and rules are only tools. As Paul says, they are like working out. They make you stronger, but they should never be the point – simply a means to an end.
If I allow them to take control they will squash my relationship with the Spirit.
If I forget them altogether my freedom will go to far and cause others to stumble.
So I seek to hold my disciplines loosely – always changing them out, always focusing on new things, never allow them to become laws that will hinder my ability to love others.
Lord, never let my relationship with you be restrained by the rituals and rules I practice in your name. Never let me miss an opportunity to love Father. But also Lord, teach me to live as an example of your love. Never let me lead another into sin.