One of the things that has often bothered me as a missionary in Latin American countries is when I see Christians shying away from certain activities or events because of the strong Catholic association. The main one that comes up every year is the lack of emphasis I see in Christian churches on the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
In the Catholic tradition the Holy Week, or Semana Santa as we call it here in Mexico, is a very important week. Most people see it as a week of vacation and nothing more. However, the Catholic church seems to unnaturally worship this blessed time. As an outside observer it seems that each day of the week is worshiped more than the events in which the days represent.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and the streets will be filled with people who won’t be able to enter into their church of choice because the crowds are so large. Everyone will have their palm fronds tied into crosses. Most of the houses in the neighborhood have already started displaying their palm cross.
I don’t pretend to know what it is they will speak about in the service tomorrow. I just know it will be well attended by regular and casual church members.
The rest of the week will have special celebrations each day culminating on Easter Sunday. I am conflicted with what I will see throughout the week. There will be very sincere people worshiping in their own way. I personally believe they are worshiping the wrong thing, but my point is that they are very dedicated to what they believe.
Going Too Far
While I disagree with my Catholic friends in their extreme worship of events, I am equally saddened by the way I have seen many Christian churches react to the Catholic fanaticism. It seems that in many churches I have been around, even good churches, they want to avoid any type of Catholic association with the remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection that they do nothing special on Easter Sunday. It is like any other service.
Pastors have told me (particularly ones who were saved out of a Catholic background) that they feel the association of the events surrounding the Easter celebration are too closely tied to the Catholic church. They want to make a distinction between their Christian church and the Catholic one their people left. It is like they are allowing the Catholics to control their church’s belief in the Scriptures.
Not Just Easter
Many years ago my wife and I were in an area in Kentucky where a strong group of legalistic Baptists dominated the thinking. Loosely defined, legalism is when a person or church believes that you may be saved by grace, but unless you live a certain way or with a certain set of rules, you probably weren’t really saved in the first place.
What we found in the church we visited was that they were trying to disassociate themselves from the legalistic churches. Therefore the people came to church completely “dressed down.” The pastor wore ratty jeans and flip-flops—and he was one of the best dressed people in the church. He specifically said they were trying to do “whatever they could” to keep people from thinking they were part of the legalistic crowd. Going as far as he did with this thinking he allowed wrong teaching to control his ministry. Going, in my opinion, too far away from error that he passed the truth and went into error the opposite direction.
Where have you or your church allowed others to control your beliefs?