“Standards,” or guidelines, that provide for biblically based decision making are the subject of much dispute both within and without fundamentalism. The reasons for this are myriad, but among them is a condemning spirit by those who hold standards different than our own, the abuse of adding to what the Word of God requires, and a failure to agree on what and where a particular standard should be. However, I simply want to argue that despite these issues we ought to have hearts that desire to honor the Lord, and standards and pre-determined rules of conduct can be helpful in doing this.
In part one of this article we saw that everyone follows some set of standards or guidelines to live by and that we find them in every facet of life. There are academic standards, business standards, professional standards, engineering standards, and so forth. All of these exist to protect and promote something important in each area of life.
We appreciate that our doctor has passed certain tests and maintains professional standards which instill trust in his ability to treat us. Crossing a bridge that meets certain engineering standards allow us to feel safer crossing over. In the same way, when we as God’s children follow and maintain some biblically based standards we too can navigate life more safely and have a greater degree of confidence that what we are doing is right.
Remember, many programs and professions hold their standards high because of the benefits derived from them. Let me offer some of the benefits others receive from having standards, and trust that you will make application of these to your walk with the Lord.
1. High Standards Promote Excellence
In the business and professional world standards are upheld to inspire and encourage excellence. Think with me about some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in our land—what is it that has made these institutions recognizable as being elite, excellent, and distinguished? The answer is simply maintaining high standards in certain areas that promote excellence. There are athletic teams whose excellent performance can be traced back to having high standards or expectations in practice and conduct.
Why would we as God’s children not want this principle to apply to us? If the music program in your church requires you to attend practice, dress a certain way, or requires some level of commitment from you, it is only doing so to promote and encourage excellence—and why would we want to offer to the Lord anything less?
There are dozens of other examples of how standards can impact our Christian lives in the area of excellence, but this is sufficient to show the validity of the principle.
2. High Standards Promote Safety and Confidence
Most of us are grateful that the Department of Agriculture enforces food handling and safety standards. Without these standards our consumer confidence would go way down, and the incidence of E. Coli might go way up. All of us feel safer knowing the products we use have passed some safety inspection process, the professionals we hire have agreed to pass some standardized test, and that the buildings we live and work in have passed the inspection of some code. In the same way when Christians follow self imposed standards they are simply trying to operate their lives in confidence that they are not bringing harm to self or others.
3. High Standards Engender Loyalty
Despite what many may think, most organizations and people who hold to high standards are actually more attractive than those who do not. There is always a waiting list to get into Ivy League Schools, the fastest growing food chains are the ones who usually operate with higher standards, and businesses who ask the most of their employees with fair compensation usually not only get great effort in return but loyalty as well.
In a recent church study it was discovered that the best way to get and keep faithful church members is to actually ask and expect more from them. People want to be a part of something that is important and done well. We should not be afraid to challenge people to be faithful to church, to tithe, to serve, and meet some leadership requirements. By doing so we are simply saying what we are doing is important, and the result will be that people will actually believe us.
4. High Standards Protect Us from Unintended and Institutional Drift
The Bible warns us not to remove the ancient landmarks and not to be given to change. Fences and landmarks are there for good reasons. There was and is something to protect, and their removal can cause us to travel to dangerous places.
If you have ever worked in a machine shop you will appreciate the importance of inspecting your parts every so often. Checking them against a standard keeps them from drifting out of tolerances, which can make the parts unusable and unsellable. Unfortunately, those who do not protect themselves with a set of biblically based standards can do the same. Little by little they can drift to a place that God never intended for them to be, and as a result can no longer be distinguished as true salt and light.
5. High Standards Say That What We Are Doing Is Important
People provide guidelines for the things they view as important. When we have standards in the church and apply thoughtful guidelines to our own lives we are simply saying that having a heart for God is truly important enough for me to give my best, do my best, and operate my life in a way that honors God.
We find standards and their benefits in every area of life. We should not be afraid of them in the Christian life when they are there to honor the Lord and speak of our desire to say He is important to us!