Straining Out Gnats and Swallowing Camels

Straining Out Gnats and Swallowing Camels
Author: Jamie Huggins, Communications and Social Media Director
What's the Point - Part 3
I grew up in churches with some pretty strict rules. For instance, men often dressed up, wearing suits or dress shirts to church. Women wore knee-length skirts or dresses because pants were considered men's clothing. Leadership prioritized regular church attendance over everything else. Contemporary Christian songs and musical instruments, like electric guitars and drums, were not played in the church because they sounded too much like rock music. One private high school I went to even had a bizarre rule against ankle socks. I still struggle with how anyone could find a problem with someone wearing ankle socks.

To be clear, it's not wrong to dress up for church. It's not wrong to desire to be different from the world. The problem occurs when traditions and convictions, over time, transform into moralistic rulebooks, which people are expected to follow inside and outside the church. Internally, this can create a judgmental and controlling culture, resulting in people struggling with or turning away from their faith altogether.

You see, when rules and regulations replace the source of our faith, we begin to strain out gnats and swallow camels.

On Sunday, Pastor Tim reminded us that Christianity is not about rules. It's about a relationship with Christ. Jesus Himself was very passionate about this during His three-plus year ministry on this earth. Throughout the Gospels, He repeatedly rebuked the religious leaders of His day for focusing on small, unimportant matters and missing out on bigger, more significant issues.
"Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!"
– Matthew 23:24
The Pharisees viewed gnats as unclean insects, and they went to great lengths to avoid consuming them, like straining liquids through a cloth. Despite priding themselves on appearing "clean" on the outside, they were widely known for corrupt religious practices and ignoring the needs of others. Jesus likened this hypocrisy to them eating a large, unclean camel. 

You see, when rules and regulations replace the source of our faith, we begin to strain out gnats and swallow camels. We become so focused on following and upholding the rules that we lose sight of what it means to have a meaningful relationship with our Savior.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples."
–  John 15:5-7
Only through a connection to Jesus can our lives have meaning and purpose, and only through remaining in Him can our lives bear fruit and glorify our Heavenly Father. The Christian life is not about following and upholding a long list of extra-biblical rules, like whether or not you go to a movie theater or wear ankle socks. If that's what we're focused on, we're just straining out gnats and swallowing camels. 

Our Savior loves you so much and wants nothing more than a personal relationship with you, so if you have not placed your faith and trust in Him, I encourage you to do so today. If you are already a believer, keep your gaze focused on Jesus. Continue abiding and growing in Him, and as long as you do, everything else will fall into place.

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