The Difference

You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, (Leviticus 10:9–10, NIV)

Is there be a difference between those of us who by position, appointment or calling, serve the Lord, and those of us who live more common lives? Is there a definitive list of right and wrong behaviors that might satisfy the requirements of a holy God, and at the same time, satisfy human sensibilities? Are we bound by the specialized and millennia-old behavioral codes found in the Old Testament? Those are important questions for today’s believers.

The USA’s puritanical roots serve her ill at times… although the Puritans demanded that people work hard — and that work ethic served us well. But they also demanded that the people be morally pure — and some would argue… to an extra-biblical extent. The problem is that these puritanical preferences are at the core of what most people believe Christian behavior should be.

But such overly restrictive behavioral codes frighten outsiders…  and although I am not advocating for licentious living, I do caution Christians not to claim biblical warrant where none exists. Moral addenda tend to divide a church, and it tempts members to spend a portion of their church-going energy discussing their marginal differences rather doing the primary work of the church — fulfilling the Great Commission.

Take the phrase “Smokin’, drinkin’ and cussin’” for instance. This evokes a man fleeing from God and living riotously. Yet smoking is not even mentioned in the Bible, and drinking fermented drinks is not prohibited in the general populace. Cussing (or cursing) is the rough equivalent of taking the Lord’s name in vain, yet modern understanding combines that biblical admonition with the many varieties of coarse speech.

My question for today is, is more damage done to the kingdom of God by people adding to God’s revelation… or by people paying no attention to it? … and is there a difference?

In the Old Testament, a person who took the vow of the Nazarite could not consume any product of the vine and could take no strong drink, and the Aaronic priests were prohibited from drinking wine or strong drink when they were serving in the tabernacle. Why? So we can distinguish between the holy and the common. But what about today?

Jesus did not condemn the law. Although we are saved by grace and live by faith, the principles of the Old Testament still apply. So, examine yourselves. Are you a church officer, a high profile server or an especially earnest follower of Christ? Then consider an overt distancing from common behaviors like drinking alcohol, smoking or using coarse language.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” (2 Corinthians 6:17)

God wants us to be separate so that we might reflect his holiness. As such, here’s a reasonable resolution: be separate unto the Lord…. but do so without being puritanical. We should live sanctified lives in a way that shows the hope within… without the dourness without.

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