Joshua 19 – 21
As best I can remember it was about 1977. I had graduated from high school and had the opportunity to travel with a gospel group. We would pack all our equipment on a customized bus and stay on the road traveling from state to state for several days at a time. It was an eye-opening experience. I had the opportunity to share the Gospel in hundreds of churches and scores of gymnasiums and auditoriums. Each church had a unique personality that was reflected in the way they worshiped. Some were very welcoming and soon felt like home while some were – well, some were just different. We had been on the road for several days when we arrived at one of those that was different. Back in the 70’s quite a few things were different. Hair styles were long and hemlines were short. This particular church was doing the best they could to retain what they understood as modesty. After we had set up the sound equipment we had to dress in what we had planned to wear to the service and be inspected by the Pastor and some of the Elders. There were limits on how long the men’s hair could be and measurements were made on the top, sides and back of any head that may come close to exceeding the prescribed limit. All women had to wear dresses, which was not uncommon in many churches back then. What I have not seen in any church since was that the height of their hemlines was measured with a wooden device that had a ruler mounted vertically. They stood beside the ruler and if they were determined not to meet the standard of modesty they went back and changed till they found something that was acceptable. We did not have much problem meeting their standards but we did find it strange, but that was nothing compared to what happened later. About midway through the service I was sharing what I believed God had given me for that evening and just about the point where I expected a resounding “Amen” about a third of the congregation of 200 stood up and walked out. It was upsetting and I turned to the Pastor fearing that I had said something to offend those who were leaving. The Pastor just laughed and said, “It was just time for a smoke break and that he and the others would be back in about 15 minutes.” I think most of us can see the irony in this story. Men often struggle to enforce those precepts, customs or traditions that they see as having merit but often miss the very point as to why they exist. I know that I have had to self examine and adjust my paradigms over the years. We must allow Christ to create us in His image from the inside out. If we just ‘look the part’ we are no different from the Pharisees to whom Jesus said, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” They had focused on the external to the neglect of the internal. They were careful in the execution of the minutia of their tradition but when Jesus stood in their midst talking to them face to face they missed the major point completely.