There is a tremendous attack against standards today. Those who have standards are called legalists. Even some of our fundamental brethren are telling us that we cannot forbid any behavior among our people unless it is expressly forbidden in Scripture. Therefore, we can tell our young people they should not be immoral, but not that they ought not to hold hands and kiss. We can tell our people that they should not watch pornography, but not that they should not go to the movies. We can encourage our people to “look nice,” but we cannot tell the ladies how long their dresses must be or the men how short their hair must be. This is pure hogwash.
The Difference between Standards and Preferences
- A principle is a Bible truth I must live by.
- A conviction is a personal belief based on a principle.
- A standard is a guideline to help me maintain my convictions.
- A preference is my personal desire in an area where no principle is involved.
How Principles Give Rise to Standards
“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside: it shall not cleave to me.” Psalm 101:3
The principle: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.” God’s word is clear; I should not look at that which is evil.
The conviction: I ought not to read Playboy or other similar magazines. Although God’s Word does not specifically condemn them, the principle clearly applies to any pornographic magazine.
The standard: My standard may be not to walk down the aisle of the grocery store where those magazines are sold, or not to frequent certain stores where they are on blatant display. Now, walking down a particular aisle at the grocery store is not in and of itself a sin. But the standard I maintain of staying away from that aisle makes it much easier for me to keep my convictions.
- Standards are everywhere: it is not just the fundamental crowd that has standards. McDonald’s says, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” Clearly a person without shoes or a shirt could buy hamburgers and eat them just as well as someone wearing those articles of clothing. However, McDonald’s says, “If you want to buy our food, you’ve got to wear a shirt and a pair of shoes.” That is a standard. Our new evangelical friends have standards. They may fuss at us because we ask ladies to wear a dress covering their knee to sing in the choir. And yet they would not let a lady sing in the choir wearing a bathing suit. Their standard may not be the same as ours, but they certainly have one. They should be honest enough to admit that it is not the fact that we have standards that trouble them, they are troubled because our standards are more conservative than theirs.
- Standards are essential: you cannot maintain principles without having standards. Suppose our state legislature decided that speed limits were “legalistic.” After all, we are mature and responsible adults, and it certainly cannot be proven that that precise speed limit is the only safe speed at which we can drive safely. If the speed limit is 45, could I not drive safely at 46? Does some terrible change between my automobile and the road conditions occur when I go one mile an hour faster? Is it possible that really 44 is the right standard? If these laws are carefully designed, how come they are always in five-mile increments? Why don’t we just say, “Everybody drive safe.” Why not? Because what I think is safe may be dangerous for someone else. A standard must be established. I may disagree with a standard. I may think it is too strict or not strict enough, but if there is not some standard, no principles will be maintained.
- Standards are elementary: one unfortunate attitude that is sometimes found in those who maintain standards is that the standards make them spiritual. A hippie does not become Godly because someone cuts off his hair. A harlot does not become spiritual because she puts on a modest dress. A rebel does not become righteous because he exchanges his black leather jacket and blue jeans for a wool-blend suit, a white shirt, and a conservative tie. Spiritual people have standards, but standards do not make us spiritual—we become spiritual when we walk with God.