Pendulum Swings: Responding to God or Reacting to Others?
While Colossians 2 and 3 both contain warnings and admonitions to saints, they are quite different in tone.
Col. 2:20-23 warns against those who seek to impose restrictions above and beyond those actually found in God’s word.
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
Then in Col. 3:5-7 there is found a strong warning about rejecting the Lord’s restrictions and becoming involved in the evils of uncleanness and other sexually-related sins.
“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.”
I don’t know exactly what was going on at Colosse, but I do know that when people today take either an overly strict or overly permissive position on an issue, it is often in reaction to the extremes of another. Perhaps those who were saying, “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle” were reacting to the tendency of some to hold on to the uncleanness in which they once walked. And could it have been that some were too loose in their approach to moral issues because of an overreaction to the ascetics who were seeking to rob the saints of legitimate rights and pleasures? The fact of the matter is, I can’t be sure about the Colossians, but I know this can be a problem today.
Rev. 3:1 refers to Sardis as a dead church and when churches today exhibit a similar lack of life, it sometimes drives people, especially younger people, to raw emotionalism and disorderly worship. On the other hand, some seem to be afraid of any emotion being expressed lest it lead to the excesses of the modern community church where “the experience” is of more concern than biblically directed worship. The reality is that neither of these constitute the orderly, yet heartfelt worship God desires (1 Cor. 14:40; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; et al), but are the results of reactionary thinking which leads to overreaction and that which goes beyond the word of God (2 John 1:9).
I have witnessed similar things when it comes to clothing. In order to combat the blatant sensuality of our age, some would impose a dress code that is either entirely of their own creation or that reads into passages things the Scripture was never intended to say. With so much ungodly dress all around us (and it seems to be getting worse all the time), I understand the temptation to seek to establish a uniform dress code, but it is wrong to make up our own rules (Col. 2:20-23) and there is a real danger that once people realize the lines we sought to enforce were not necessarily God’s lines, they may erroneously conclude there are no lines of modesty and decency which must be respected (1 Tim. 2:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Matt. 18:6-7). While we must not imitate the Colossian heretics in making up our own rules of dress and risk driving people to the other extreme, it is equally important that our refusal to draw any lines of modesty and purity not become a factor tempting others to draw unauthorized lines of law.
We could on to talk about parents who are too strict or too lenient and thereby drive others too far in the opposite direction. I could consider preachers who never seem to talk about grace and mercy or their opposites who seem uncomfortable even mentioning obedience. And of course, all of these tend to produce overreactions. But my intent is not to go on and on with examples, but to emphasize two points.
1) We’re all being watched, so let’s make certain our example is not driving someone in the wrong direction, whether it be to the right or to the left.
2) And let’s be sure our standards are a response to the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), not a reaction to the beliefs and conduct of others.
All quotes from the New King James Version, copyright 1995, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Inc.
In the article above I mentioned concerns about the ungodly dress seen all around us. This website also features an article entitled It’s Going to Be Hot! that we believe all would benefit from reading. While we seek to avoid the imposition of manmade rules, we challenge all to consider some important biblical principles. To read this article, click here.