There was an incident, years ago, that pretty much perfectly encapsulates the difference between rules-based religion and Christian love. I was in a wedding party, the reception had started and then, abruptly, the parents of the groom got up and left. As it would turn out what had caused them to leave in a huff was sparkling grape juice.
No, despite their being part of a teetotaling sect, the problem was not that they thought it was alcohol in the bottles. They knew it was only grape juice as it had been cleared ahead of time to prevent issues. So what was the problem? The servers didn’t get the memo, they poured directly from the bottles, which looked like wine bottles, and had committed a ‘sin’ of creating the *appearance* of evil:
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.(1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 KJV)
Of course, the absurdity of those who claim to follow after Jesus whose first miracle was to turn water into “good wine” at a wedding in Cana being completely opposed to drinking is bad enough. But for them to go even further and get hot around the collar over grape juice because of the container it was poured out of is astounding. Ultimately they were more worried about what people thought than they did sharing the joy of their son and new daughter-in-law.
I’m not sure if there has been any regret and repentance since. This post is not about this couple or a judgment of their salvation. I think they made peace with their son over this years ago. But it is a prime example of being more focused on what others think, or remaining within the rules of a religion, than showing love.
Even if drinking alcohol were truly forbidden in Scripture, which it is not, there was no alcohol involved at this reception. The real concern was how it appeared to their peers. But the worst part is that this isn’t at all what 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 is talking about. Other translations have it saying “reject every kind of evil” and thus is not about how things look. So these parents were in the wrong on multiple levels and, for all I know, may still feel completely righteous about it.
False religion is all about maintaining outward appearances and at the expense of the command of Christ to love. It relies on rules that stem from a misunderstanding of Scripture or ignorance. It is an application that is always void of the spirit of the law even when they are supported by the letter. It is the very same thing Jesus encountered with those who pridefully clung to their own ‘Biblical’ tradition and were offended by Him.