The opinions of others – or, more to the point, caring about the opinions of others – is killing Christians.
So-and-so will be offended if I do … or go … or sing … or wear … or associate with … or go to THAT church (or DON’T go to that church) or (even) be friendly with someone who goes to that church … THAT, my friends, is a religious spirit. It is the letter of the law (and not even the actual law itself but someone’s interpretation of it) that, scripture tells us, killeth. The Spirit, on the other hand, comes to bring life.
Face it; Jesus came to be an offense to the world. Offense will come, He said: expect it; just don’t be (you personally) the source of it. He said that He came to spread not peace but a sword.
Fear of what we think others might think about us determines, more often than we’d like to admit to ourselves, where we go to church, what music we listen to, how we dress, how we groom ourselves, where we work, who we make friends with, where we live, what we drive, etc. The (sad) truth of the matter is this: very few people who matter will notice or care. And those who do, for religious reasons, possess no opinions worthy of deviating our direction one iota.
“Judge not that you be not judged” is most often misunderstood and misquoted, as we MUST exercise good judgment, good discernment, constantly. But reading it in context makes clear that what Jesus forbade was the presumption that we could get into the mind of another, know his motives, and condemn him accordingly. But that sin of presumption happens all the time. It happens most commonly in religious settings. Religion lends itself not to the truth of God’s word; rather, it divides God’s ecclesia along man-made lines where we are taught that the opinions of others are actually, somehow, authoritative.
This series of articles has attracted, somewhere, somehow (!), no doubt, much of that judgmental opinionating, for it has aimed directly at the anti-God nature of religion – specifically, organized religion – itself. And were this writer on the payroll of some church or church entity, dependent upon its approval and acceptance, that fear of creating offense might be a factor on this side of the keyboard, too. But the liberty that arises from having traded such strangling entanglements for the freedom that is found in Christ alone is so quickly more rewarding. Ironically, those who prefer personal opinion and entrenched tradition over biblical truth will never know that freedom, so busy they are defending the status quo and daring others to disagree with their opinions.
Jesus came to bring freedom, to declare liberty to the captives, though one may have to wade through a few swords along the way to becoming free. But the opinion of others is no sword to fear… except in our minds. And that, my friends, is the sort of fear that 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us is not of God. So quit worrying about what other people think; study to be approved of God, to gain the mind of Christ, instead.