Crossing the Line? Or, a Lesson In Legalism?

The Picture

Have you seen all the funny pictures people are creating with “face-swapping” apps on their smart phones? I’ve seen pics of dad’s with their babies, people with their pets, and even one with a person swapping her face with the nobs on her kitchen cabinets!

NOTE: If you haven’t yet seen a face-swapping picture, then you’re living a minute or two behind the times. Few people with smartphones (the owners of which make up the majority of the civilized world) have not seen a face-swapping picture.

Face-swapping with my daughter :-)

Face-swapping with my daughter 🙂

Therefore, when my daughter, Katie, wanted to try our her face-swapping app on her new Motorola smartphone, I thought it would be fun. And, I was correct! The result was hilarious!

Or, at least that’s what I thought.

The Critics Speak

Katie posted the picture she took of us to Snapchat. She also forwarded it to several friends and relatives. I, on the other hand, saved the picture on my cellphone and posted it to Facebook. I wanted to share a little humor.

One of the things that made this picture funny was how perfectly it swapped the faces – it almost looks natural. But the other thing that made it funny for me was the sad irony of if all – the current bathroom battles. My original, off-the-cuff tongue-in-cheek comment was that we were “either getting ready for the new bathroom laws, or my daughter had grown a beard in college.”

Evidently, my sense of humor and the picture (either one, or the other, or both) was a little too much for some. The critical comments began.

Facebook friend: “Not very becoming of a pastor.”

So, I responded.

Me: You do realize that is a face-swapping app on my daughter’s phone, don’t you? It swapped our faces; I wasn’t dressed like a woman for real. That’s why it’s funny.

And the friend replied.

Facebook friend: “As men of God, I believe there’s certain line we are not to cross. What if someone see this and decide to be in courage to take it a step further. We should shun the very appearance of evil. And yes I do know”

That’s when I decided to respond with a blog post.


Where are the lines a pastor should not cross? Who has drawn them? Who determines where they should be drawn, how far they should extend, and how bold the marking?

For most of my life I lived in fear of what others thought about my spirituality. My life was burdened by others who were drawing the lines for me. They were the ones I feared would see me if I went to a movie or a restaurant that sold alcohol. They were the ones who would call me “liberal” if I didn’t do exactly as they prescribed. And because of others, I drew lines for others, too.

I was a full-blown legalist afraid of what other legalists thought. And, I’m still recovering.

But where are the lines? Are there no universal lines which none should cross, especially pastors? Of course! There are the lines of lust, adultery, envy, and bitterness. There are the lines that separate us from unethical financial dealings; misuse of power; and most importantly, doctrinal error. But when it comes to personal choices, self-management, and my family – in my particular context – it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict me (draw lines), not my fellow brother or sister in Christ.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:4

But What of the Weaker?

But as soon as I quote Romans 14:4, there are going to be those who quickly point out several other verses in the same chapter.

  • Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in [his] brother’s way. – Romans 14:13
  • But if thy brother be grieved with [thy] meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. – Romans 14:15
  • Let not then your good be evil spoken of: – Romans 14:16
  • Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. – Romans 14:19

The context of Romans 14 is that of one taking his liberty too far, to the point of doing more harm than good. Because of grace, it really didn’t matter whether a believer celebrated a certain day or ate meat offered to a non-existent false god. However, it did matter if one did these things in the presence of someone struggling with theses issues, someone of little faith.

Paul said that he would rather us never eat meat again, to throw away all our liberties, if by enjoying our freedom it caused another one to sin (14:21). He said: “You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right” (Romans 14:22 NLT).

That being said, I believe there is great liberty in Grace, but many times I refrain from exercising my freedoms in order to avoid “offending” one of weaker faith. Why? Because if that person, not fully convinced that what I was doing was acceptable, decided to go against his own convictions and imitate me (the one he might possibly look up to and admire), then I’d be causing that person to sin (14:23).

But You Can’t Please Everybody!

Now, with all of the above in mind, we must also consider something else – you can’t please everybody! Don’t even try!

If I lived every moment in fear of those who might find fault in every little thing I do, I’d go crazy! As a matter of fact, that kind of life will KILL you – it killed my father!

Look, there are people who won’t attend our church because on Sunday mornings I still wear a tie when I preach, while others get offended when I don’t wear a tie on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Some people think I’m too liberal because I will go to a movie, eat at a restaurant that sells beer, and play darts. Yet, others think I’m too much of a “fundamentalist” because I dislike high school proms and condemn sin from the pulpit.

If all I did was try to please people, I’d never succeed.

The One I want to please is my Heavenly Father. As I seek to please Him and bring glory and honor to His name, I take note of the things I say and do, because I want my life to be a reflection of my Father’s heart. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, especially God.

But folks, you’ve seriously got to take into consideration one more thing…CONTEXT.

My Context

Food, drink, clothing, style of music, dancing, etc., … in all of these areas CONTEXT will make or break you. Regarding the picture of my daughter and me, the context is thus…

  • technology is changing faster than we can keep track
  • Smartphones are the #1 tools of communication in the world
  • Most people with smartphones have seen face-swapping apps
  • Fathers do crazy things with their daughters – if they are good fathers and not deadbeat dads
  • I try to be a good father, not a deadbeat lowlife who never has fun with his children, and most people who know me know that.
  • I have a sense of humor, which is one reason all elementary children want ME to be their school bus driver
  • I have thousands of followers and subscribers to three blogs and social media, not to mention church members, family, and friends who know I can be very serious at times, goofy at other times
  • Over the last several years I’ve written multiple-hundreds of thousands of words, published audio and video, and plastered Facebook and Twitter with my thoughts and commentary.

If all it would take is one picture, one made in fun by someone who is well-known as a conservative, “right-wing” evangelical Southern Baptist pastor, to push somebody into acting out their transgender/transexual desires, then that person was too far gone to begin with; he/she/undecided would have flipped the switch with or without my stupid picture.

Final Point Long In Coming

Friends (including the one who left the above comment), give me a break. Lighten up a little. This world is most certainly going to hell in a handbasket, and the witch carrying Toto has gone from a bicycle to a crotch rocket (motorcycle). If we can’t find a moment or two to laugh at the insanity of it all we’ll all dehydrate from the tears of sorrow.

So, I’m sorry if the above picture offended you, but I’m not taking it back. My family is more important to me than the 0.00005% of individuals who might get their panties in a wad because they saw me look un-pastoral in a stupid picture with my little girl.

I’m choosing to live in grace; life’s too short to be legalistic.


Filed under legalism, Parenting

13 responses to “Crossing the Line? Or, a Lesson In Legalism?

  1. Garrett R.

    Great writing, Brother Anthony. Growing up with a legalistic mindset kept me from pursuing Christ for a long time because I felt I could not live up to the ‘standard’. Thanks be to God for His Son Jesus Christ!

  2. Good word! The fact that we keep a separate standard for Pastoral conduct is already telling of problematic theology. Yes, ministers bear a weight of responsibility, but aren’t we all ministers?

    All that aside – the law is such an cruel task master. Let’s not act as it’s minions any more!

  3. I left this on your Facebook also, Brother Anthony. I am thinking this guy really would have a problem with the time a fellow church member and I dressed as The Judds and sang “Mama He’s Crazy,” at the church Valentines Banquet

  4. Anthony, whatever you can do to get Wally to post those vids. The church needs to LAUGH more, including at ourselves!! God has such a supreme sense of humor. (I put my face inside a Kardashian…scary.)

  5. Your journey out of legalism is what drew me to your blog several years ago. Glad you didn’t stay in the “box”, my friend. Keep it up.

    And the picture, while those face swapping pics make me cringe because they are creepy (LOL!), shows you are a fun dad. Keep that up too. 🙂

  6. I can really relate to this. People especially on Facebook can be so critical. I have been guilty of it myself, to the point where, if it wasn’t that I share my facebook page with someone else, I would disable it. It’s the whole idea that “If your hand causes it to sin, cut it off.” As far as humor goes, that’s the reason I like to write fantasy books – some with more Christian elements than others. I don’t like arguing with people and doctrinal disputes wear me out. I think pastors are a brave bunch and wish you the best as you fight the battle against legalism.

    • I’m really just a coward with with a calling. I’m like the little kid on the playground who isn’t afraid to tell another kid the truth, just as long as my Big Brother is behind me daring the other little bullies to make a move. Without Jesus I wouldn’t make it out of bed – I’d be too terrified. He makes me brave.

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