John Wesley Honors College

What Happened to the Handbook? – Part 3 – Thinking Through Scripture

by Ren Martin, John Wesley Scholar, Class of 2014

In paStock Bible Picrts one and two of this series, we looked at changes made recently to the IWU Student Handbook in regards to the media and dress code policies. In this post, we consider the Scripture passages used to substantiate each policy.

If you’d like a refresher, take a look at the previous posts:

What Happened to the Handbook – Media Policy
What Happened to the Handbook – Dress Code

As we think through the new policies, we should make sure we consider scripture in context. What do the Biblical phrases we use to form our old and new policies mean in the context of the surrounding verses? In the following passages I’ve underlined the passages quoted in discussions surrounding the new policies.

As a reminder, the following verse is the one that both the old and new policies agree are central to this issue.

 Philippians 4:4-8

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This passage indicates that we need to guard our hearts and minds with Christ, the Word. The instructions about what to think about comes after our minds have already been trained, already been saturated with the Spirit—rejoicing, reasonable, peaceful, prayerful, and thankful. When all these things are happening, our minds are guarded and ready to think about the things listed next. Again, these are great verses to remember as we continue to make decisions about what media we consume. Is your mind more saturated with Scripture or media?

As with any decision, as we consider our own personal reasons for consuming the media we consume, we should examine the scriptures. How do the following verses quoted by the SGA in the context of the new media policy compare with verses found elsewhere? Two main passages were mentioned in relation to the new media policy. Here is the first one.

 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

This passage is not primarily about rules, or even the Law, but about the role and definition of love in the Christian life. The sentence about mature thinking is in the context of perfect understanding, as is indicated by the following sentence about knowing fully as we have been known. The sentence about giving up childish ways is an illustration to help us understand what it will be like to reach the perfect, to see truth face to face. The point is that even in the face of the perfect, love will endure. Since this passage is primarily about what love is rather than what mature thinking is, we can compare this passage to an earlier passage in the same book to better define mature thinking.

1 Corinthians 2:14-16.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Our natural, default self is not to understand truth. As we become more like Christ, we become more like truth. We understand truth when we understand Christ. So how do we accept the things of the Spirit? How do we have the mind of Christ?

 John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Psalm 119:11

I have stored up your word in my heart,/that I might not sin against you.

Ephesians 6:17

the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

We have the mind of Christ when we have a mind that is so saturated with Scripture that our thoughts are indistinguishable from the thoughts of Christ. So give up childish ways. But make sure you’re using the mind of Christ and not your natural, default setting. This is a great verse to remember as we all make decisions about how these new policies will affect us, but we shouldn’t assume based on this passage that the old policies were any more or less childish than the new ones.

The second passage given was referred to indirectly through the phrase, “freedom in Christ.” 2 Cor. 3:17 mentions freedom, but this is the freedom to see God face to face, much like 1 Cor. 13:12. Rom. 8 also says a lot about our freedom in Christ, but this freedom refers to our freedom from sin. The passage that most closely parallels what the SGA president was trying to get at is in Galatians.

Galatians 5:13-26

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Again, in this passage we see how a Spirit saturated mind, appropriately armed with Scripture, should guide our lives, not the Law. Yet we are also cautioned to not let this liberation as an opportunity for the flesh. Even with the Spirit, we are kept from doing what we want because the desires of our flesh are opposed to the Spirit. So how can we discern between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit? The next few verses offer helpful lists, much like the old policy did. Our freedom shouldn’t make us conceited or spiritually lazy. People who liked either the old or new policy better shouldn’t be conceited because they think they understand the Spirit better. Both groups should strive to serve one another rather than bite and devour. What should you do if you have friends who have different convictions about the new policies than you? The Bible talks about this situation.

Selected parts of Romans 14 (read the whole chapter for yourself)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats…It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand… none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s…each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding…But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Don’t use any of your new freedoms to cause others to stumble. If you want to watch a movie and your friend has reservations about the content, don’t try to convince your friend that it’s ok to watch. It’s not. It’s not ok for your friend because you friend’s conscience is squirming, and it’s not ok for you to watch because you should care that your friend’s relationship with God is being threatened. Make sure that your own conviction proceeds from faith and not from sin. Since we learn from media in a way we don’t learn from food, even more is on the line spiritually.

As you consider your own choices in relation to the new media policy and dress code, make sure you consider how to live under grace in a way that glorifies God, transforms your mind, and encourages those around you. Don’t spit out answers that cut down people that disagree with you. Talk with God about it. Read what he has to say back.  Saturate your mind more with Scripture than you do with media.