Mark 7:6-9 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition (KJV).
In many cases, traditions of men have corrupted the Word of God in the Body of Christ. Whether it is denominational or non-denominational thinking, private interpretation of Scripture and the like, people miss the true Doctrine of Christ by miles. Without realizing it, people hurt the Church by having a religious attitude that says, “My way of walking is correct, and anyone who fails to think the same way as I do is wrong.” Here is the problem with that mentality: anyone who holds to man’s doctrine that is contrary to the Truth is wrong. That is to say, if our way of thinking does not line up with the way God thinks, we are wrong. For example, God plainly says, “Be ye holy for I am holy” (1Peter 1:16). Would it be a good idea to let God define holiness? The moment we try to define holiness by human logic, we stray from the strait and narrow. If we are to be holy as He is holy, then we should ask Him to reveal what that means to Him. Only God can define true holiness, which means we must allow Him make it known to us through Scripture by the Holy Spirit. When people attempt to be holy apart from His revelation, they become “religious” or self-righteous.
Unbeknownst to some, by “not compromising the Word,” they begin to compromise. On one side, they become rigid and unbending in their thinking. Everything becomes black and white to them, while forgetting the Red and White. Jesus did not have difficulty with the sinners of his earthly days; He had trouble with the religious ones. The Pharisees became a self-righteous group that failed to extend mercy. Without realizing it, in the name of “no compromise,” we can begin to condemn others when they fall instead of seeking their restoration and reconciliation to God. In some cases, we could even go as far as to condemn those who do not think exactly the same way we do. How does that line up with, “Be ye merciful as Your Father in heaven is merciful” (Luke 6:36)?
“Mercy” is another word that should be defined by God as well. Mercy manifests in a variety of ways. How often have we kicked someone when he is down, instead of helping him back up? In a number of instances, Jesus restored those who fell into sin. He acted kindly toward them; nevertheless, He would also say, “Go and sin no more.” The religious ones wanted to stone them. Sometimes, an act of mercy can be an act of harshness. “Excommunication” is a word that is seldom heard in churches this day and age. It has a negative “religious” connotation attached to it, mostly because it is misunderstood. If we read 1Corinthians five and follow up with 2Corinthians 2:1-11, we will find that forcing someone out of the Church was an act of kindness. How could that be? The intent behind it was to lead the one who was willfully sinning to repentance. As an act of love, it led to the restoration of a fallen brother, and maintained the purity of the congregation. In every situation, we must allow the Holy Spirit to lead. In this example, the Church in Corinth was compromising the Word of God by overlooking the brother’s sin in the name of mercy and grace. The trouble is that it was not mercy; it was tolerance. That kind of tolerance was unmerciful because it would have led to the brother’s ultimate destruction. In 1Corinthians five, the Corinthians were instructed to put the fallen brother out of the church. In 2Corinthians two, they were instructed to receive him back into fellowship as the result of the former action –repentance. If the Corinthian Church would have rejected God’s instruction given through Paul’s letters, it would have been completely corrupt and the individual would have been destroyed for all eternity.
James 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (KJV). If you consider yourself to be a religious person, how does your religion line up to this passage of Scripture? If you consider yourself holy, how does your definition of holiness compare with the Word of God? How do you interpret the word “mercy?” Perhaps, it would behoove us to examine our belief system through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and ask the Lord what needs changing. Sometimes, we need to take our thinking to the proverbial woodshed.