Ha. Legalism, in your FACE!

So, remember way back two posts ago when I said I was going to try to blog every day during Lent except Sundays?  Yeah, well, apparently that statement had a caveat which goes something like, “And except when I choose to do stuff with people rather than sit in front of my computer.”  Not like there are that many people reading at the moment, but in case you’re incredibly offended by my failure to live up to my (sorta) word, this one’s for you:

You’re a legalist.  So am I.  Let’s knock it off, mmkay?

I mean, I know that’s a great big Easier Said Than Done, but take it under consideration with me.  I grew up in the church, and when I say “in” I really do mean in.  I only recall staying home sick from church one time in eighteen years.  Being an oldest child, female, and blessed/cursed with a temperament prone to caring a great deal about others’ opinions, what do you think was a bigger danger: that I was going to go buck-wild and rebel against everything I had grown up believing?  Or that I was going to become a total pharisee, Now With Lightning-Fast Judgmentalism (TM) and Turbo-Powered Self-Righteousness (TM) Built Right In!

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing in the last few years about how many kids who grow up in the church turn away from it when they leave for college.  I’m not diminishing the importance of examining the reasons behind that phenomenon, but I think we can get so worked up about the ones who leave that we forget to notice the ones who stay

A couple months ago, I told a friend of mine who grew up Roman Catholic and was converted in college that I had never had a mentor.  To say she was aghast would be putting it mildly.  “Well,” I explained, “No one ever thought I needed one.” 

See, I was the kid who had all the right answers in Sunday School.  I came to church, sang on the worship team, went to youth group, got good grades, stayed out of trouble, spoke politely to adults, seemed happy and well-adjusted.  And I was, for the most part.  But as time went on, I became obsessed with knowing the right answers to everything.  I had to show my parents and the other adults at church that, even though the vast majority of kids in my age group had dropped out of youth group, there was ONE “good Christian” left in the bunch.  I was one miserable little moralist.

Let me tell you from experience that legalism is just as deadly, just as crippling, just as dangerous as license, because both of them cheapen and diminish the Gospel.  While license says, “Well, God will just let it go, it’s no big deal,” or, “God’s love means he wouldn’t want me to give up what makes me happy,” legalism says, “Grace isn’t enough, Christ’s death doesn’t really count in this situation, being right is all that matters.”  License takes Grace for granted; Legalism forgets Grace altogether.  License imagines God as a jovial, wealthy uncle who winks at your mistakes and doles out presents now and then.  Legalism imagines God as an angry, loveless stepfather, waiting for your next mistake, threatening to disown you if you can’t get it together.  Lies! 

I don’t know who, but an obviously wise and perceptive teacher once said, “God is as dissatisfied with you, Christian, as he is with Jesus.”  What a freeing concept for the person struggling with the false guilt of imperfection!  What joy to know that I am in Christ, and that not only has he taken my sin upon himself and dealt with it at the Cross, but his perfect righteousness is credited to me!  He has fulfilled the whole law of God where everyone else has failed, and by God’s mysterious grace he has given me the righteousness that he earned.

So no, I don’t feel guilty for not blogging yesterday.  Thanks for asking!  🙂

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2 thoughts on “Ha. Legalism, in your FACE!

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts for even strangers like me to read. You put into words (and eloquent words!) what I've been wanting to shout from the rooftops for many years (especially considering we seem to have similar backgrounds)! I really appreciate your perspective, and the time you spend in writing and sharing them!

  2. Pingback: A Stolen But Super Cool Idea | A Wilderness Life

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