We humans value a variety of things today, possessions, a good education, unique experiences. We take a sort of pride in things we do, or don’t do. Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee praying in the Temple, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers …” (Luke 18:11). But what was he doing instead?
The final chapter of Ezra has a major challenge of decision making faced by the people; in returning to the worship of the one true God, many had to separate themselves from foreign idol-worshipping wives. It seems not all did. This is not telling married couples to split, but illustrates that there can be no ‘half measures’ when serving the one true God.
Paul makes a parallel Colossians 2. He asks, “… Do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ … according to human precepts and teachings?” (verses 20-22). Obviously some were still submitting to rituals they had observed when they were either pagans or practicing the Mosaic law. Such is human nature, many thought this made their ‘piety’ more evident.
In the sight of God it had the opposite affect! Paul says, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (verse 16). All these things, Paul stresses, “have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (verse 23).
True believers who see themselves as parts of the body of Christ, writes Paul, must hold “fast to the Head, from whom the whole body is nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, (and) grows with a growth that is from God” (verse 19). Are you making good progress in “holding fast to the head”? Are you being “nourished and knit together” with others as you do so? Don’t make the mistake of looking to blame others; all must pull together as fellows in the same ship, looking to Christ as the Captain.