Engaging Culture

Can We Measure Our Commitment to God?

It’s tough to measure how religious someone is, but the problem is that human beings love to measure stuff. So for centuries, since we couldn’t measure our hearts or our commitment to God, we used outside benchmarks. We decided that you weren’t a real Christian if you danced, smoked cigarettes, or drank alcohol. When I grew up, many of the families in our church didn’t actually believe going to movies would send you to hell, but if Jesus returned while you were in a theater, then all bets were off.

Christian schools had dress codes, curfews, and required rules – all in an effort to enforce religiosity. Even now, some Christian organizations are still prepared to fight to the death to keep beards, jeans, or rock music outside their borders.

Sometimes the intentions are good. No one disputes that cigarettes will kill you, or excessive alcohol consumption can destroy your family and your life. But those are health rules, not spiritual rules.In fact, some would argue that at the beginning of the 20th century, the church began to lose it’s credibility in the culture because it joined the “Temperance” bandwagon. Many wondered why the church became such a force for eliminating alcohol from society – especially since it isn’t even a Biblical issue. Once they saw pastors cross that credibility line, they lost respect for the church and it still hasn’t recovered.

The point is, be careful in your attempts to measure someone’s spirituality by the way they dress, what they drink, or who they associate with. The apostle Paul was pretty clear about that in his letters, but we human beings just can’t seem to lose our obsession with being able to “measure” other people’s commitment to God.

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  1. Every morning I wake up and ask God if he died and made me judge.  Over the pasto 30 years or so of this discipline, I still have not gotten an answer.  Must assume the answe is no.



  2. Hi Phil-

    Love this!

    I’ve leaared over the years, I can hardly figure out my own committment to God without attempting to assess someone else’s at all, much less by their outward appearance or otherwise. 

    Glad I found you in the virtual world! 

  3. Great post (I found your blog through one of my Facebook friend’s updates). For some reason, it reminded me of a little different twist on “measurement.”

    I have a friend who has this definition of “fanatic” – “someone who loves Jesus more than I do.”

  4. Great post Phil.  Brings back a TON of memories. 

    I didn’t grow up in a Bible believing fellowship but post conversion wound up in a Baptist church.  It was an environment that measured faith very strictly with leather bound King James Bibles (the only correct version – the one the Apostle Paul used!) and a church covenant conveniently located in the back of the hynmal which was read at least 3 times a year.  It was your standard “don’ts list”, no alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and what was called “wordly amusements” which covered just about anything else that might be fun.

    Sadly – it didn’t stop carnal behavior and that was the problem – you can always work around the list if you want to.  I don’t smoke for purely health reasons now and I am PERSONALLY convicted not to drink because of 12 million alcoholics in the U.S.  But I don’t put those convictions on others – not my job.

    The worst part of this?  As a culture we are known more for what we are against than what we’re for and for what we don’t do rather than for what we do.  That is a very distorted, marginalized and inaccurate image of our faith and of Jesus Himself.

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