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” ‘So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too?’ ” (Acts 15:10-11, The Message).

This is one of the questions of the ages. It’s one the church has often answered poorly through the centuries. We are still very adept at piling things onto people. We pile on rules. We pile on our preferred daily disciplines. We pile on expectations for service … and so on and so on.

If we examine the motivation for all that piling on, it does tend to come down on the side of out-godding God. We’re sometimes afraid, like the Pharisees were, that if we don’t give the masses something to do they might leave us for someone who will. We’re afraid God won’t be able to be God if we don’t help Him.

The spirit of the Pharisee is still roaming the religious corridors of time, seeking vulnerable people—people who will easily succumb to legalistic standards, and people who will partner in oppressing the freedom we’ve been given in Christ. All it takes is a little fear on the part of a leader, a little power based out of position, a little misplaced submission.

The Council at Jerusalem wrestled this question through to the Holy Spirit’s conclusion. The danger for us comes when we stop wrestling and acquiesce to the demands of religion. Without that wrestling, we are like cars with our wheels out of alignment. We will gravitate toward placing burdens on people. It’s what churches do.

Let’s trust the Lord of the church with his own people. He’s up to the job.

“Jesus, help us to set people free from the burdens of religious life. Empower us to trust you with their souls. Keep us wrestling with the balance between legalism and license so we keep coming to the Holy Spirit’s conclusions … in Your name! Amen!”

By: Ron Pinkston, Central Pacific District Supervisor

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is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Orlando, Fla.