Coloring Inside The Lines
by: Gary L. Hutchens
Many folks don’t like the restrictions, as they see them, placed upon their lives by the Bible. They see the teachings of the Bible as restricting them to having to color inside the lines. They view Christianity as a paint by numbers religion because of the structured doctrines that lay its foundation. Because they don’t want to be restricted, they don’t read the Bible, they rarely attend church services and God is pretty much not in their thoughts. These reactions are a natural result of such a mindset.
But think about the frames of reference behind these rather trite criticisms of the Bible and Christianity. As parents we give our children coloring books. Coloring the pictures helps young children develop several skills, such as perception, hand-eye coordination, motor skills and structured discipline in working on a task. At first we simply teach our children to color. But fairly early on we start to teach them the discipline and skill of coloring inside the lines.
At first they struggle, but with practice they get better and better, and we praise them for the improvement they demonstrate. If they never learn to color inside the lines, we become concerned, recognizing that as a sign of a developmental problem, and we do not ignore that problem. Indeed, we seek a doctor’s help.
Effective living in this physical world requires structured self-discipline. Attending school, working on a job, developing a relationship, driving a car, even fixing a meal necessitates that we function in required ways in order to achieve successful results. It’s a more technical way of saying, we have to color inside the lines.
Since we accept and live by this principle on such a common basis, why would we think it should not apply when it comes to our spiritual life? The Bible is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16). Because it is His word, the scriptures contained therein carry God’s authority.
The church is here by God’s design (Matt. 16:18). It was in His plan before He created man (Eph. 3:8-11). Part of God’s plan for the church, in relation to His word, is that the church is to teach, proclaim, communicate, stand upon and defend His word (1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Tim. 3:15). Considering that the church is identified as the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), that Christ died for the church (Eph. 5:25), and that He adds those who come to salvation through Him to His church (Acts 2:47), should help us recognize not only the importance of the church but also the importance of our being a part of it.
A person who doesn’t like structured design should never buy a paint by numbers art kit. The numbers represent the design. Producing the designed picture requires following the numbers. The same principle applies to a jigsaw puzzle. Every piece has a specific place, and only when each piece is put in its designed place can the puzzle be completed.
God is the master designer of the church. Every detail is intricately designed to meet His specifications. Every bit of the design has a purpose behind it, whether or not we can readily see it. God simply knows better than we do. To reject God’s design is to reject God’s authority. We cannot live effectively in this world without respecting the principle of having to color inside the lines. It is no different when it comes to our spiritual life. Call it coloring inside the lines if you like. I call being faithful until death (Rev. 2:10)…
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Gary L. Hutchens