The Puritans left scars… but on the wrong people

Monday Musings for December 31, 2018

Good morning, Musers… and Happy New Year!

“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)

… and who am I to argue? We should separate ourselves from any number of things — one of them being the wrong kind of separation… and there’s no way I can get through this without sounding like I’m making a pitch for licentious living.

I’m not, of course. But I am here to tell you that there’s a difference between being pure and being puritanical… and I predict that some of our more tightly wound brethren will have a problem with today’s musings. But there’s room in the word “brethren” for an uncomfortable range of behaviors, so I pray that all my readers will stay with me today.

The problem with words like licentious is that they are subjective. People who categorize other people’s behavior as licentious are doing so based on personal lifestyle choices — ones they assume are not licentious — or worse… ones they assume to be the standards for Christians everywhere. But I believe there is a broad range of acceptable behaviors for believers.

Paul taught that every person has a moral compass, not just believers (Romans 2:14-15). But he also taught that in spite of God’s disposition towards grace (and the implications that has for how we should treat each other) — we should police ourselves… and we have the example of the man who had taken up with his stepmother while boldly maintaining fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:1).

Fast-forward 1600 years and we see Puritan believers settling our nation. What I find interesting about this is that they — who were escaping persecution abroad — brought their own brand of persecution with them… and four-hundred years later, we still hear its echo.

We are moving into a new year this week, and there’s nothing wrong with making a few resolutions. Maybe it’s time for us to tighten up our spiritual lives — to be more prayerful and caring believers. But some of us are so behaviorally tight that I question our practical use as witnesses.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s a great need for discernment — both within the Church and without. But there’s a greater need for things like mercy, for counseling and for lifting each other up. Perhaps we should resolve to do more of that.

But whatever kind of Christians we decide to be this year, let’s be biblical ones. Let’s share the hope that is within us with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). However, let’s not limit such practical grace to those who are on the outside. Let’s also apply it to our fellow soldiers in Christ. After all, grace is the grease of the spiritual life.

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