“Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.” 1 Corinthians 4:6.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.” One of the most confusing concepts to tackle in life is a person who seems to be a Christian but acts contrary in every step they make.
While following God, people often try to define how they will follow Him. Two different paths can form for those who either “underdo” or those who “overdo”. When we “underdo” we decide to walk our own path and cover up our disobedience with God’s power of forgiveness. When we “overdo” we also walk a different path, but in this case we try to charge ahead of God. Those who “overdo” become so aware of His commandments that they can no longer see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
In essence, they fall into religion. They become so entrenched in following God’s commandments that they forget to ask Him how to carry them out. The Bible is a “living” Bible, and has application to us today. The danger takes shape when we use it without asking Him how. This has been seen over and over throughout history. A person going to church to worship God becomes more concerned about impressing the church than they are with impressing God.
For thousands of years people followed God in this manner. In the old days, Jewish children could recite the entire Torah, or first five books of the Bible. Still, showing up in the Temple and reciting God’s law was not enough. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6.
Shortly after, God turned it all around. When Jesus came, He came with a message that hit hard against the very people impressing others with their vast knowledge of God’s law. Frequently in the New Testament you will see the word “Pharisees”, who were the very people who thought they knew it all. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23.
The overdoer also falls into judgment. Through their walk with God, they have received some strong confirmations and revelations that they want to do whatever it takes to bring people to God. While this is a good thing, often times their approach can be counterproductive. What they forget is that our Great Commission is to spread the good news of the gospel to others and bring them to God, not turn them away. Sometimes the “overdoer” can sound condemning and judgmental over the smallest of things, and in turn people walk away feeling condemned and afraid. We should always help not hinder. “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14.
God’s word does tell us to hold others accountable, and to protect ourselves from falling into sin. However, He also tells us not to judge. “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:1-4.
The best way to avoid falling into judgment and stay in the realm of accountability is to examine your motives at all times. Ask yourself whether you are telling someone to do something because you believe they should do it your way, or are you humbly telling them that they are doing wrong and you do not want them to suffer in the long run.
Nonetheless, the goal is to bring others in and show them God’s love, not bombard them with rules. It does no good to give someone a big Bible that weighs them down without showing them how to use it. After Jesus we are now under grace, not law. “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14. His grace allows the Holy Spirit to live within you from the moment we committed our lives to Him, and once someone learns to listen to the Spirit they will follow God’s will without having to be beat over the head to do so.