A definition: Orthopraxy is a term derived from Greek (ὀρθοπραξις) meaning “correct action/activity”, and is a religion that places emphasis on conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc. This contrasts with orthodoxy, emphasizing a correct belief, and , the use of rituals…(as opposed to “orthodoxy”) an emphasis on correct practice rather than correct belief.
I grew up in the holiness tradition which meant living a life of holiness (defined as perfection) was first and foremost. Our salvation was proved by how “good” we appeared. (If you haven’t yet wondered about the heresy in that sentence, you may need to read it again.) It may not have been the original intent of the church’s teaching, but that is how it was practically lived out.
We looked on the outward appearance to determine if someone was truly “saved.” We were fruit-inspectors and modern-day Pharisees.
Let me show you how this was played out in my life:
Around the age of 10-11, I had spent Sunday afternoon at a friend’s house. I didn’t have time to change before the evening service (yes, that was in the day we counted church attendance as “proof” of our devotion). Still wearing my jeans and tennis shoes, and knowing how wrong it was for me to walk into the sanctuary for service without my Sunday best, I asked if I could speak to the pastor.
I explained my plight, feeling fully ashamed of my predicament. But there was no need to worry, his plan put me at ease. If I would sit on the back pew during the service and leave as soon as the final prayer was being said, it might be okay. But please, don’t let it happen again.
I dutifully did as he suggested, feeling hot with embarrassment (read: shame) as the congregants came in to worship.
My grandfather was a smoker and a drinker. Consequently, he was not “saved” in light of the church’s orthopraxy. When I was eight years old, he passed away. I grieved for many years wondering if he had made it to heaven. The only hope I had was his dying request for the 23rd Psalm to be read. And my memory of how loving he was toward me.
I was a bad girl. I was loud. I was curious. I was playful. I was nasty (sexually molested — although that was not believed at the time). I was a crybaby. I was stupid. I even tried to smoke…once. But I was very careful not to cuss and always ALWAYS talked about my love for Jesus.
I determined to live holy around the age of eleven. I decided to give my life completely over to the Lord and follow His rules thereafter. I would be good! (read with gritted teeth) Even if I died trying!!!
And I thought I was. For many many many many many many … years.
I played the role very well.
I looked the part.
I even home-schooled.
I was good.
I was a Pharisee.
I’m not so good anymore. Truly. By my “outward appearance” you might wonder if I’m really saved.
I’ve done some bad things:
I smoked this year.
I’ve had a few drinks.
I’m only in church once a week, and that’s not even on Sundays.
And God knows, I’ve cussed more than people have even heard. 😯
I’ve done stuff.
But do you know what? I’m saved. I know I’m His. And He is mine.
I know Him better today than I did yesterday.
I understand, by experience, things I’d only taught before.
I can confidently state:
For by grace I have been saved through faith.
I haven’t done anything to earn salvation. It’s God’s gift.
Where my sin abounds, His grace abounds more.