If we read the Apostle Paul as a black and white thinker who wrote rule-filled letters to followers of Christ, we may be forgetting that his pre-occupation with rule keeping was a thing of the past (Philip 3:3-14).
Listen, for instance, to what he wrote to the Corinthians,
“The time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.” (1Cor 7:29-30)
Try reading those words as spiritual laws and standards for judging ourselves and one another, and we turn words of inspiration and encouragement into a heavy spiritual weight that none of us can lift.
On the other hand, if we see how flexible Paul is in this letter, and how often he gives counsel while allowing for the individual circumstances and spiritual condition of his readers, we find his pastoral heart. Even though he had high hopes for his readers, his intent was not to control them with guilt producing standards or expectations but rather to encourage them to give themselves, in whatever shape they found themselves– to the Lord.
That’s why Paul could write radical sounding words and then add, “I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible” (v 35 NLT).
So can we add to our last couple of conversations something like …“Are we sad today even though Christ has done so much for us? Don’t know why we are feeling so low? Or maybe we do know what has us down, and can’t seem to shake it? Then please, for one another’s good, and for Jesus’ sake, let’s not allow those emotions to keep us from giving our messed up hearts and minds to him. Who can doubt that he would rather see us entrust to him whatever we do have… than to see us kicking ourselves around for not feeling better about all that he’s done for us… and shades of blue feelings that we may or may not be able to control…