I think Roger was right on for starting this weekend’s Biblical counseling workshop with the topic of legalism. I didn’t really think that was something I particularly struggled with, but breaking down what legalism was and looked like, I realized that it was very much prevalent in my life.
Legalism is anything added to the Gospel that compromises the sufficiency of Christ or jeopardizes the adequacy of the Spirit.
In simple terms, legalism is justification (acceptance) derived from performance, where as the Gospel, true Christianity, is freedom derived from acceptance. Christ pursuing us. Grace being freely given. Nothing merit-based. Nothing created from or by ourselves.
I think about how often times I feel I’ve done what is expected of me as a Christian by going to church or going to small/large group or downloading/reading the devotional on my iPhone app. And yet, how HERETICAL to think that I’m “safe” or justified through my works.
So the question arises then, how do we or how did we become such legalists? Legalism comes from our pride and desire to take control through our performance.
It’s easy to say doing x, y, and z, makes us Christian, makes us “righteous.” It’s easy to confine the Gospel into a to-do list that’s based on performance. Because THAT is so much easier (ironically) than the actual “light” burdens God calls upon us to carry— namely, following Him, being persecuted for Him, giving up our worldly desires for Him.
I admit, grace is a hard concept to swallow. We’ve all been so trained to think that it is or that it should be all about what we’ve done or what we can do. And I think Galatians 1:10 raises an important question.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
But the bottom line of course is: legalism doesn’t save you.
The solution to legalism is Jesus.
I think about Freshman year when I strived so hard to be that”good” person. Serving FOR acceptance, instead of serving FROM acceptance. I was SO exhausted. I think I thought that NOT doing the “bad” things, NOT partying, NOT hooking up, NOT etc. etc. meant I was somehow doing the right thing. But today it really hit me.
Freedom is being united with Jesus.
The Gospel shouldn’t be looked through a lens of a “set way of doing things” but through the lens of freedom. A non-Christian friend asked me the other day about what he viewed as a hypocrite— someone who partied, drank, etc, on the other hand “acted” as a devoted, righteous Christian. And okay, this is somewhat of a “touchy” subject, but I think one thing needs to be clear: salvation isn’t about our human actions. Being a “true” Christian doesn’t somehow mean you are or will be immune to temptation. Every Christian looks different. Of course, Christians shouldn’t be taking advantage of grace, but Christians also shouldn’t be condemning brothers and sisters who are struggling with let’s say “worldly desires” Because it’s so true that…
Legalism creates barriers.
I thought today about how perhaps many of my approaches to handling certain people or situations, while at the time I thought was the most loving thing to do, was perhaps very critical and in some ways detrimental. I should have and should be focusing on loving instead of judging.
I was pretty blown away by the vulnerability of tonight’s introductions. A room full of strangers and yet so many people let down their guard. I really had to reexamine myself today- ask myself why my heart had become in so many ways hardened and prideful. I’m so glad this summer is starting off with this workshop about counseling. Because in all honesty, I know I’ve lost some of my sensitivity. I think part of it is that I’m scared of the level of empathy that is required by certain types of “counseling”. Especially with people going through hard times, I know I have to reach into the dark places of my own past which terrifies me. But God calls us to bare each other’s burdens. And I look at the people who have touched my life in that way and I am so beyond grateful.