This past week I was at our annual Free Methodist Family Camp. The main speaker for the week was Pastor Mark Van Valin of the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church. The theme of the Camp was Holiness: Coming Home Again, and so Pastor Mark’s talks were all about holiness. He delved into what it is and what it is not, and gave some very thought-provoking and spirit-moving talks.
During one of his talks, Pastor Mark said he was having a conversation with a Baptist minister who had told him he was going to preach on holiness the following Sunday. Intrigued by this, Pastor Mark asked what he would say. As background, one of the cornerstone doctrines of the Free Methodist Church is holiness, continuing on in God’s grace and progressing towards a perfect love of God and others in our lives. This was not an emphasis as an official doctrine in the Baptist tradition, so it was very interesting to hear what would come of this.
So, according to Pastor Mark, the Baptist minister said (and now this is third-hand since I’m relating it), “If we reduce holiness to simply not doing a list of sinful things (drink alcohol, smoke, swear, etc.) that is like equating marriage with not committing adultery.”
Now of course adultery is wrong and to have a healthy marriage one needs to not commit it, but there is so much more to having a healthy, thriving, loving marriage than simply not sleeping around. As people are in relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit they will avoid sinful actions (think 10 Commandments), but that is not the sum total of a life in Christ. Christianity is not so much about following a list of do’s and don’ts as it is living in a relationship with Christ. His love and Spirit in our lives will transform us from the inside out to live a holy life, but if we reduce that relationship to following rules, we might as well change our pre-marital counseling to simply tell young couples that they will be happy and have a fulfilled marriage as long as they don’t commit adultery.
It was a very wise insight from our Baptist brother.