Grace Immersion

Bonus Day 57

How Dare You Sleep On Soft Pillows?!

Read Colossians 2:16–19

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. Colossians 2:16

Elisabeth Eliot is one amazing woman. Her missionary husband Jim made headlines in 1953 when he and four others were speared to death upon encountering the Auca people of Ecuador, a tribe no one had ever met without being killed. Elisabeth went on to forgive the very people who killed her husband, working and living with them until 1963 — not only surviving her encounter but effectively communicating the Christian message in their language. She became convinced that it’s possible — and essential — to share the gospel with people like the Auca without destroying their unique indigenous culture.

Perhaps because she lived as a Christian in the Auca culture, Elisabeth has some great insights on how easily legalism in the form of a pseudo-Christian subculture comes to any earnest believer. In her book The Liberty of Obedience she writes about a young man in Europe eager to follow Christ. He asks, “What must I give up?” And here’s the answer he gets from his teacher:

Colored clothes, for one thing. Get rid of everything in your wardrobe that is not white. Stop sleeping on a soft pillow. Sell your musical instruments and don’t eat any more white bread. You cannot, if you are sincere about obeying Christ, take warm baths or shave your beard. To shave is to lie against Him who created us, to attempt to improve upon His work.

Does this answer sound absurd? It is the answer given in the most celebrated Christian schools of the second century!

And then she asks a question that might make you uncomfortable: “Is it possible that the rules that have been adopted by many Christians in our century will sound as absurd to earnest followers of Christ a few years hence?”

In today’s Scripture reading Paul lists a few of the “extras” that legalists were trying to push on the Colossian church. They were teaching the Colossians to base their relationship with God on rule-keeping and on private visions. Big problem: These things lead to comparison and to pride, because people who are better at rule-keeping, or who happen to have more “spiritual” experiences, end up focusing on these things instead of on God.

Paul says that such people “have lost connection with the Head”, Jesus Christ. I don’t think he means they’ve lost their salvation, but rather that they’re self-focused instead of Christ-focused, operating in their own strength and wisdom rather than God’s. Soon their joy, their energy, and their unique witness to the world as a product of grace, will weaken.

What additions to the gospel of grace have you encountered in your spiritual life?

What convinced you that trying to live up to religious rules couldn’t change you on the inside?

Ask God to help you become skilled at discerning what standards are good, biblical aspects of following Christ, and what is really just our culture permeating our faith.