There was a gentleman who was a very active member at one of the churches Eric pastored in California. Let's call him Bob. Bob fervently believed that everyone needed to show honor and respect to the house of God by donning appropriate attire or not donning certain accouterments as the case may be. Wearing a baseball cap in the church, for instance, would cause Bob's blood pressure to soar to dangerous levels. Coffee or other liquids in the sanctuary were strictly prohibited. Heaven forbid one ever consider entering the house of worship without shoes on one's feet. Needless to say, Bob's adamant and rather emotional reaction to those breaking "Sanctuary Rules" caused quite a ruckus among the parishioners who struggled to find a balance between accepting new-comers, those with no knowledge of "sanctuary dress and behavior," and protecting the sanctity of "God's house."
In light of this, this past summer, when Eric had the privilege of speaking at a Palauan youth conference which included a Sunday morning service, it made me laugh when, to my surprise, before we entered the sanctuary, we were met with hundreds of shoes nearly barricading the doorway. What to do? Take off my shoes in the house of God?!! Well, as odd as it felt, I went with the saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans" (That is Scriptural isn't it? Ha, Ha!) and off came my shoes. As my family and I sat on the wood benches, piggies brushing the tile floor, I couldn't help but imagine Bob in a state of apoplectic shock at this scene. Here we were, worshiping God with one heart and mind (but different languages since they were singing in Palauan) with our toes languidly roaming outside our shoes. It was such a humorous scene that I simply had to get a picture.
Well, I told this story to the students in my marriage and family class tonight to illustrate a concept. (By the way, they were floored - get it? - that anyone would think you SHOULD wear shoes to church!) All families have rules. Often the rules are unspoken and unconscious. This can create tremendous conflict in a newly-wed couple as they both enter into marriage with unspoken rules that are not necessarily shared by their spouse. I asked the students to identify some unspoken rules from their families of origin. Then I challenged them to find where those rules can be found in Scripture. Inevitably, the rules are not found in the Word of God. But, the rule holder sure treats them as sacred cows (or should I say filthy piggies?). As a result, conflicts arise and feet (no pun intended) are dug into the sand over issues that are not right and wrong, but simply cultural or "the way we've always done it." I John 3:16 says, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives [and our rules] for our brothers." Perhaps it's time to barbecue a few sacred cows and throw a fiesta. I'll guarantee that would go over big here!