Whatever Happened to Principles?

2:44 AM

Chicken, corn and colorless stuff. That's what award banquets boast. Ham, too, but why eat ham when the chicken's fried? I ate that fried chicken and corn (but not the colorless stuff) across from a stranger, his wife and his daughter. We covered the basics -- why I was here, what grade I was in, where I was going to college, what I wanted to do when I graduated, and of course, where I went to school. I muster up a big smile and eye contact when people ask me that: "I'm homeschooled, actually," I say, hoping there's nothing between my teeth to deny the legitimacy of my education. Particularly because they were public school teachers.


But they loved it, thought it truly amazing (as most public school teachers do, I've found) and said they had a sister who homeschooled her children. A sister who suffered a terrible accident. An accident that left her bedridden, her many children teacherless, her husband beginning to wonder if he'd have to do the unthinkable -- send his children to public school. 

It's just another example strung up with a long line of others, so long that I'm wondering. If daughters are called to remain in their fathers' homes, what about the principle-breakers Elisabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael -- who flat out disobeyed parental pleas to remain at home? If God demands parents be fruitful and multiply, why would He withhold children? If God hates divorce, why would He let Christian marriages crumble? 

Whatever happened to principles, God? 

I heard of a woman who married a godly man, a man who adored her, loved God and lived Jesus out loud. He cheats on her so often, repents so lightly and lies so suavely that nobody comes to her aid. Her daughters tearfully refuse to marry -- because they will not go through a marriage like that. Human brains scramble for an answer -- she must have missed a warning sign, she must not be submissive enough, maybe she kissed before the altar or committed some other unpardonable sin. We must scramble, because if we don't assume that she did something wrong, then we have to accept that she did everything right -- and the right steps didn't lead to the right response.

Whatever happened to principled living?

Why is it that beautiful, pure girls remain unmarried? Why do Christians hunger when "the righteous will prosper"? Why do kids rebel against good Christian parents who prayed Proverbs 22:6 over and over again? Why do promise and hope go to waste because of a terrible accident, a disease, a mistake?

Whatever happened to the Bible?

I love the Word of God and how detailed it is. I love how it addresses almost every aspect of culture, society, government, family and theology. I rest secure knowing that if I need answers, I can turn to the Word and find them. 

But the Word doesn't lay out a blueprint for Biblical living -- at least not in the way one would expect. Not in the way I expected, certainly. Principled living meant figuring out everything Scripture said, following it to the last jot and tittle, and reaping the blessings of walking in God's counsel. My walk wasn't unique, really -- and shouldn't be. It ought to follow all the other Christian girls' lives and then it would follow all the other Christian women's lives and we would march lockstep together to the glory of God. Hallelujah!

I think many well-meaning Christians fall into the same trap. We recognize that only through Scripture can we know God's full revelation, His full will. We don't trust flighty emotions, impressions and generalizations. We want to obey and honor God with every single second of our short lives. It is our joy to embrace our roles and responsibilities -- and who cares if the world laughs? 

Unsurprisingly and ironically, we take our good, Biblically-grounded intentions and then ignore the clear revelation altogether. We think like worldly people, that Christianity is a bunch rules, that the outplay of principles must be as binding as the principles themselves, that God has little slots He pushes us into, that we walk by sight, not by faith.

I walked by sight most of my Christian journey. I rejected the idea that I could be different from all the other homeschooling girls. I scorned the "worldliness" of others who didn't see a clear pattern for Christian families and individuals. I saw everything black and white, with gray growing blacker. If something was best for me, it was best for everyone. If something was best for everyone, it was best for me. No squirming allowed. 

Yet I missed out on the most basic principle of Christianity: faith. I neglected the most basic doctrine of God: His omnipotence, His sovereignty. God didn't work with formulas. He worked with His will -- which transcended all human efforts at boxing Him in. 

The question stands -- why? Whatever happened to principles? Why not formulas? Note to God: It'd make everything easier if I knew what exactly You wanted me to do at all times -- then maybe You wouldn't have to waste as much forgiveness on me. Right? No. Because God wants to reveal His glory through our stumbling weakness. God wants to change our hearts, not out outward steps. God wants us to depend on Him, not morality or the greater Christian flock. God wants us attuned to the Word Himself and not manmade opinion and conjecture. 

The Bible is not the rulebook for life. It isn't the game plan. It isn't the morality checklist. It's a character study -- about God, about man. It's a revelation -- about heartrending pain and unending love. It's a story -- about a God who works all things together for good. Our good. The Bible turns us to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. It's faith in Jesus that saves, not in principles, not in morality, not even in the Bible itself.

I didn't at first believe in a God big enough who would allow His precious child to go through the public school system or divorce or barrenness or singleness. I didn't trust Him enough to let go of paradigms and precepts. Frankly, I didn't cling to Biblical "principles" in order to obey God but to be in control -- to know my life backwards and forwards -- to be able to whip out the Bible and say, "See, God, but that's not how You did it there!"

There's another principle God always operates by -- love. Justice. Goodness. We win in the end. We win. 

I've stopped preaching to God. I'm scared, a little. I'm not groping in the dark but I don't entirely know where I'm going. He does. And I'm throwing everything I am and do on that promise.

It's been amazing. For the first time in my life, I feel like I'm living.

God never backpedals on His principles. He never calls us to walk apart from His Word. But His biggest principle? Faith in a God who cares -- which smashes all human opinions to pieces. And makes for a crazy good life, too.

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5 impressions

  1. Wow. Wonderfully put! It has been a recent discovery to me that standards and convictions have to many become all that Christianity is. God's purpose for standards and convictions is so that at the end of our life, we might be without regrets! Our Christianity does not hinge on the "law" but on Christ! And if a believer can truly tap into what the love of God is, there would be zero need for a law because that insanely strong love of His would be enough to constrain us to do right! That's what the book of Galatians is all about!

    Thank you for posting this! It was a great read this morning and will be a thought I'll be chewing on for a while. :)

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  2. Great stuff Bailey!

    It's like Peter stepping out of that boat...do I trust the safety and familiarity of the boat more than I trust Jesus? The principles and rules do have an illusion of safety and predictability--as you said "to know my life backwards and forwards." Stepping out into the waves was/is downright scary for me, but that's where Jesus is. Life with Him isn't safe or predictable but it is abundant and real and free!

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  3. I love this section:

    "The Bible is not the rulebook for life. It isn't the game plan. It isn't the morality checklist. It's a character study -- about God, about man. It's a revelation -- about heartrending pain and unending love. It's a story -- about a God who works all things together for good. Our good."

    I *know* you are unusually perceptive, but even so you sometimes still (pleasantly) surprise me.

    May I add - It's an incredibly powerful story that can still have impact after thousands of years and resonate with individuals, even individuals who may have different beliefs and ideas regarding that story.

    Adele

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  4. Yes, yes, YES! God has taken me through a very similar journey, Bailey. It's been so exciting and so amazing. God is so merciful to me.

    It hasn't been an easy journey though. I've been rejected and condemned by those who hold "higher principles" than me. Just like I once did. It's been very humbling and very faith-building.

    May Jesus find me faithful.

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  5. Wow- this is an interesting perspective. I've never thought of it like this before. . .and honestly, it makes a lot of sense. :)

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