If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Being a Christian is not a comfortable endeavor. As the Bible tells us, we will face hardships because of the road we are on (Matthew 5:10-12, for example). From this, there are at least two schools of thought: all comforts are to be eschewed, or, all comfort is to be found in the Lord alone. Certainly, there are more positions than these, but these I've mentioned are prevalent in many Protestant churches. Both positions stem from the idea of being in the world, but not of it (something Christ never said and in fact did not live). This creates an "us versus them" mentality, and alienates Christians from the reality of the world. Note I am not encouraging Christians to partake in sinful behavior, but rather, to use God-given discernment while still seeking comfort in life. For example, it is fine if, within your convictions, you enjoy a drink, provided you are of legal age. What Scripture prohibits is drunkenness. If your conviction is not to drink, by all means follow that conviction, but do not look down upon others for drinking.

Church culture has, within some denominations and sects within denominations, created a group of people who believe without thinking. Blind faith is acceptable to them, and that faith extends to their religious leaders. They (the sects as a whole) have a limited interpretation of Scripture and are usually very concerned with behavior, rather than righteousness; for them, the two concepts are synonymous. Are there behavioral expectations within Christianity? Of course. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. These things are (literally) written in stone. However, what about other concepts? I've already mentioned one: "be in the world, but not of the world." What does it mean to be "of the world?" Some would rightly say it means to abstain from sinful pleasures, but some go beyond and say (or consistently imply) one should not enjoy anything that may lead to sin.

One might as well stop breathing. Don't eat, don't bathe, don't move.

The Bible is not and was never meant to be a "catch all" guide to life. God entrusts us with reasoning, and the Holy Spirit is meant to serve as a guide for us. It is fear that leads to abstinence from potentially sinful behavior. Certainly, our question should not be, "How close can I get to sin without crossing the line?" but neither should it be, "How far can I get from that line?" The world is meant to be enjoyed, and God provides us with some guidelines, a conscience, and our reasoning ability. For some, masturbation is, under all circumstances, a sin. For others, they are able to masturbate without lust as a factor (difficult to believe, but possible). Some are convinced they should not drink or smoke, while others (including historically notable and respected clergy) have not (had) such convictions.

Church culture adds to Scripture far too often in its implicit or explicit expectations. A woman is discouraged from wearing a two-piece bathing suit in some cultures because it might lead men to sin, but men are not expected to exercise self-control in that circumstance. To take that further, a man is expected at times not to look at a woman who is attractive, lest he lust after her; a woman who "shows some skin" (and I do not mean nudity or anything approximating it) is not to be admired for her beauty, but to be shunned for her temptation. The result is a man who is ashamed of his sexual nature and obviously confused, leading to "rebellion" against the standards of the church he belongs to. Nowhere in Scripture does it say I cannot appreciate the beauty of a woman; in fact, it states quite the opposite throughout Song of Solomon. Where we get into danger is in allowing anything whatsoever to take the place of God.

As 1 Samuel 16:7 points out, God is concerned with the condition of our heart, not our behavior. It is not that God ignores our sin, but rather, He knows that if our hearts are in good condition, our thoughts, emotions, and behavior will follow. What you think of your world and experiences will be reflected in your emotions, and your emotions will influence your behavior. Your behavior, then, will reinforce your thoughts. If we truly want to find the truth, we will pursue it alone, without blind faith. We will test and search and experience and think, and in the end, we will find contentment in the Lord. Contentment may be a far cry from happiness or comfort, but in the end, contentment is peace, rather than despair and frustration.

Love God, and embrace the truth in the church, but do not let the culture of a church influence your behavior.