August 19, 2014
(Jesus said) "... For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger." Matthew 23:3b-4
A few weeks ago we attended our daughter's church in Frisco, Texas.
The gifted, young pastors who led the congregation in worship did a number of things that were not part of the normal, congregational fare. In fact, this devotion focuses on one thing which I found to be a bit disconcerting. No, it wasn't the version of Scripture or the hymnbook they were using. Those things were all A-OK. The thing that shook me up was the use of a fist bump rather than a handshake.
Looking back, I jokingly think my reaction was based on the fear many preachers have when they see members of the congregation coming at them, waving their clenched fists.
After the service I spoke with my daughter about the replacement of the tried-and-true tradition of the handshake. She assured me fist bumping was more sanitary. (According to a recent report, handshakes spread 20 times more bacteria than do fist bumps.) She also said a light fist bump was easier on a person with arthritis than having their fingers caught in the vice of what her grandfather used to call a "manly handshake."
Then, after she had exhausted the medical arguments for the fist bump, she said, "Dad, do you remember when you taught me in confirmation about adiaphora?" I did indeed remember. I remembered how I had told every confirmation class: "When God and Scripture condemn something, the church must do the same. When God encourages something, we ought to do likewise. But in those areas where God neither commands nor forbids, in matters adiaphora, we must follow along and not make up any rules as if they had come from the Lord."
What my daughter was saying was this: the Lord is silent about handshakes and fist bumps, so we shouldn't make up any regulations about fist bump usage. It was also her way of respectfully saying, "Dad, don't be a fuddy-duddy."
She was right.
The Lord Jesus came into this world to fulfill the Law and rescue us from the condemnation of our sin. Even as the Savior was winning our liberty, He made sure that man-made rules and regulations should never be elevated to the level of God's will and wish. The passage above shows us that Jesus found it unacceptable when the Pharisees placed burdens that could not be carried on the souls of others.
It is just as unacceptable today.
This is why, next time I go to the Lutheran church in Frisco, Texas, I am going to fist bump with the best of them. And I am going to do it with a prayer thanking God for the freedom the Savior has given to that congregation and every one of us.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, may I make use of the liberty You have won to point others to the joy that comes to Your forgiven people. May we follow You when we condemn sin and when we bless that which You have declared to be good. This I ask in the Savior's Name. Amen.
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Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries