Enthusiasm for a good cause sometimes outruns wisdom. We seem to always be on the search for the right system, or set of rules, or curriculum, or the ideal menu that will produce the happy life, the perfect children, and eternal health. These are laudable goals that can become idols.

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” and it seems there are any number of ways to accomplish this. Sometimes God tells us exactly where to stand e.g., “You shall have no other gods before Me.” More often, He tells us which room to stand in e.g., “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” Within that room there are many places to stand and still be pleasing to God.

The desire to discover the “secret” to this or that leads to extremes. One-upmanship tends to promote whoever is willing to lead the movement. You don’t sell books by being in the middle of the road. The hordes of insecure followers are happy to have the experts tell them what to do. And so, gradually, the shoelaces get tighter and tighter. The true-believer in the latest system is considered the most enlightened, and even spiritual. National gurus emerge, followed by local gurus. Soon we’re goose-stepping down the road, showing the world how it’s supposed to be done. Some of these fads fade quickly and others are doggedly persistent. By the time one generation has endured the regimen, the utopian dreams have died. A host of neo-systems then emerge and the cycle repeats.

Christian liberty allows for elbowroom. There are many things that Christians should walk together on; many things where we should look alike. However, our callings and gifts differ; our traditions differ; our wisdom differs. This is why God puts us in communities, so that we can be a little bit more like others but not to make us identical. Loosening the shoelaces lets us actually enjoy the dance. We all need God’s grace, and we all need to give grace.