Oh Boy! It’s Allowed!
How many times have new converts received sound instructions concerning the life of a Christian, only to have the instructions nullified by the example of older members? A brother in Canada recently told me of his first trip south after his conversion. Struggling to overcome his tobacco habit — because he had been taught that he ought to do so — he watched with delight as the men of the “down south” congregation went out between Bible study and worship to enjoy their cigarettes. “O boy!” was his immediate reaction; “It’s allowed!”
The same thing happens in other areas of teaching. “Attend every service,” new converts are told, and sound reasons are given to back such instructions. But Brother Smith only attends the 11:00 o’clock service, and he is accepted as a faithful member. “One service a week must be sufficient,” they say to themselves. “O boy! It’s allowed!”
“Study your Bible daily, and prepare beforehand for every Bible class,” they are wisely told. But they see little evidence of Bible study on the part of others, and some of the comments in Bible classes definitely betray a lack of preparation. “Ignorance of God’s word must not be too bad,” they conclude. “O boy! It’s allowed!”
“Modesty of dress is essential for Christians,” they hear repeatedly. But then they hear of mixed swimming among the members and see Sister Jones wearing the tightest pants in town. “O boy!” they think; “It’s allowed!”
Older Christians ought to be constantly aware that they are being watched, watched by newer converts who are looking to them for examples. Part of the teaching those new converts are receiving is coming from the pulpit; the other part is coming from the lives of the other Christians around them. What are they seeing? What are they learning? How sobering to think that some new convert might have been discouraged and led astray by something he saw in my life! Let each live in every aspect of his life so as to be able to say, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Newer converts, though, must learn that God’s word is the standard of authority, not the conduct of other Christians. Loyalty in a kingdom is determined by loyalty to the king rather than to the subjects of the king. It is to Him that one pledges his allegiance when he becomes a Christian and must be faithful to Him whatever others around him may do or fail to do.
One’s “O boy! It’s allowed!” then must be limited to those things which God allows in His Word. But even then he would anticipate a certain reserve in one’s expression, for the true Christian’s greatest delight is not in some activity that just happens to be “allowed,” but in serving the Lord. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).