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.

Another example:

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.

14 responses »

  1. Thank you Michelle. I am struggling with how salvation looks. I think it is slowly coming to me that it looks like a cross. I am forgiven and saved even as I work this other stuff out. Thank you Jesus.

  2. You, like the rest of us, have done some bad things because you are human, which means not perfect.

    We can dress up and appear perfect on the outside, but it’s the condition of our spirit that determines if we have been saved by faith.

    People will judge us by how we look, and act, because that’s all they can see with their eyes.

    For the Christ Follower only you and your God can know if you have been truly saved in your heart.

  3. Hi, Gch! 🙂

    Exactly, Ed. And I suppose it’s only human nature that causes us to judge so harshly. I imagine it’s been such a difficult lesson for me because I spent so many years judging others. It’s ugly to see. And embarrassing to admit.

    Actually, today I see it as almost laughable. But it truly took me years to get to this place of being okay with being human and still knowing I am saved. Such arrogance. It rather stinks. As Isaiah said, “When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags.”

  4. 😀 I love you. I’m SO glad that light dawns. I’m SO glad that legalism is a bunch of bunk. I’m SO glad that God is not an abuser. It is SO freeing to know that I can do nothing, except harden my heart to Him, that would separate me from Him. WOW! What an incredible God! Oh the Love of Jesus …

  5. I’ve been thinking lots about this post since I read it last night, and it’s one of those times that I’d love to be able to sit down over a coffee and just chat with you in person … but I think the biggest thing for me as I read this was just how thankful I am that God revealed His grace to you. How much He loves you and accepts you just as you are, because of what Jesus has done for us. I love your heart for God, and I love that He has brought you into freedom.
    Sometimes I wonder if I’ve even scratched the surface when it comes to understanding God’s grace. It takes my breath away to think of the utter freedom we have before God, because of what Jesus gave for us.
    Love you. You are infinitely precious to Him, my friend xo

  6. Hey, Birg! A coffee and long chat in person would be wonderful! I feel sure it would not be difficult to open up to you and share the depths of life, knowing grace would be freely extended. I think I’m learning that grace will be something I’ll continue to learn on deeper and deeper levels. I was such a hard-core Pharisee that I believe, as you’ve stated, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of understanding the freedom we have in Him. Thank you for hearing me. It’s a gift you have. I’m glad you’ve chosen to share with me.

    Blessings Birgit. xo

    Oh yes, Burt. Step four. 😯
    It’s a good thing. 😉
    I love you, Bro!!!

  7. Matthew 23

    @Nicole – what does salvation look like? Just look in the mirror. There is no “one” look; the look is as numerous and diverse as there are Believers.

  8. Hmmmm…scary words there, Bad. When I read Galatians and see that the teaching is anathema, I cringe. It looked right. It felt right. It made me feel “secure”, although I was constantly afraid of losing my salvation. What a paradox!

    And yet, in all those years, I know I was saved. So you see, to me it’s not so clear cut as calling out woes to Pharisees…only Jesus can truly do that (which, I hope, was your point). He is the only one who knows the hearts of men. I don’t believe we ever know where anyone is in their walk with God. The declaration can only come from the one who judges righteously and sees all things. His Spirit bearing witness with our spirit…

    It’s all about grace…

  9. I think you’re mostly right, Michelle. The only one we can truly know about in terms of their walk with God is ourselves.

    I mentioned Matthew 23 not so much for the “woe” part – but for what Jesus is saying about cleaning up the inside before cleaning up the outside. We tend to do the exact opposite – behavior modification in hopes that disciplined adherence to a set of moral codes will somehow clean up our minds. Doesn’t work too well, does it?
    You knew you were saved, I’ll wager, because you had a real, personal encounter with the living God. Jesus came into your heart and set up residence. All the other “stuff” – it’s really a waste of time if we’re not “cleaning up our act” by taking care of our hearts first. All of us do a pretty miserable job of it, too.

    It’s all about grace…and mercy.

  10. “Jesus came into your heart and set up residence. All the other “stuff” – it’s really a waste of time if we’re not ‘cleaning up our act’ by taking care of our hearts first.”

    And that is my next post…if I ever get it done.

    Thanks, Bad.

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