Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Legalism, Law and Grace

Romans 3:28 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

In this post, I want to discuss legalism and how it affects Christian community including the churches, the home etc since it is what millions Christians have and now still dealing with in everyday life.  First I want to define what exactly is legalism?  Basically, legalism is a long list of man-made religious laws and rules that Christians are expected to follow in order to earn Jesus Christ’s love and blessings sometimes based on false or misguided teachings. If a Christian doesn’t follow all the rules, then their written off as not true believers by their fellow Christians, unable to be welcomed into the Lord’s grace and will be condemned.  The mentality for these Christians is to turn the bible into a long to-do and don’t list what we should or shouldn’t do and if anyone falls short, they should be judged.  A lot of the times, bible scriptures get taking out of context, distorted and misinterpreted to justify these so-called rules.  What these legalistic laws are will differ in many churches and other Christian organizations. 

Some churches ban members from any alcohol use, tobacco use, tattoos, women wearing make-up and jewelry, pants or their hairs short and men from wearing their hairs long, or anyone going to clubs, dances, swimming places and swimming in mixed groups.  Many others are constantly analyzing or worrying themselves or many aspects of their life, whether they should get tattoos, is it okay to smoke, drink any alcohol beverages, wear makeup, its it okay to love fashion, what to watch on TV or at movie theatres, how to dress, can they cut their hairs, what type of music should they listen to, what books to read, etc. They fact remains, is that many individuals and churches feel the need become the moral police con-stantly delegating on what other Christians should do based on their own interpretations on how a godly person lives. 

This may seem well-intentional at first since we all need some order in our lives but it can also have major negative affects.  For one thing, many interpret the bible in their own way, and when others don’t follow by their code of standards and rules, they feel compelled to harshly judge, criticize or/and condemn.  I recall many accounts I read on the internet of Christians complaining how they were ostracized, sneered at for a variety of reasons, because they allow their children to watch Disney, they don’t homeschool their children, mothers working outside the home, etc..  I also read many comments from fellow Christians who condemn others for watching soap operas, women wearing make-up, jewelry and high heels etc.  Once and a while, I will stumble on a article from a Christian feeling the need to tell others what they should or shouldn’t do whether it was to turn away from the fashion industry, celebrating Halloween, turn away from movies and books that involve horror, supernatural, witches and wizards.  These types of mentality winds up embracing an attitude of self-righteousness, arrogance, overly judgementalness, and condescension which isn’t what a Christ-like attitude is all about. These attitudes tend to come taking out of context scriptures that warns us against embracing worldly passions.  

There is 1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”   Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world”.  Many interpret these verses to mean that we as Christians should have nothing to do with anything of this world. That partaking in anything of this world be it hobbies, interests, that is god-related in general is sinful.  By that reasoning, that means that Christians should give up all their personal hobbies, be it fishing, camping, going to sporting events, or playing sports, movies, TV, not read any books that aren’t Christian books, or listening to secular music.  In other words, don’t have anything to do with anything secular in general.  However, I don’t believe that what the scriptures are actually saying and I found such ideas unrealistic and too restrictive. Besides what about secular things that are positive such as charity organizations, humanitarianism or those who care about the environmental?  Would it be sinful to get involved in these events because they are not god-related?  

One could argue, they’re purpose to get involved in these events is to please the lord be involved in a calling, but that is besides the point.  I don’t believe the purpose is to abandon all things in the world, but that our hearts foremost should be with God rather than desires things of this world that are sinful.  Also, we shouldn’t be so consumed of desiring things of this world that causing us our hearts to be filled with greed, lust, selfish cravings, too much materialism, making us turn away from god or prioritize these things over honoring the Lord.  God, should be foremost the center of our lives in which we can still enjoy our passions and pursuits that doesn’t cause us to go against God’s will or turn away from him altogether.  We should be careful to what is sinful or not.  I mean that Christians shouldn’t be so consumed with sin that we look for sin in any fun pursuit be it going dancing, swimming in mixed groups, watching soap operas, having an occasional alcohol drink or read romance novels or adding things that are not in the bible.  Over analyzing such behaviors where Christians are constantly looking for sin and judging and criticizing others leads to an legalistic mentality that is negative destroys the spirit of Christ, rather than uplift it.  

People can become miserable, anxious or constantly second-guessing themselves as they feel they never measure up to being a follower of Christ. Others we become holier-than-thou always feeling morally superior to others, feeling the right to nit-pick people’s choices or mistakes. This is not what following Christ is about.  If we give ourselves to God and Jesus Christ than we don’t need to be too self-conscious as we trust our hearts to know that nothing can cause us to stray from the lord.  Of course, we should avoid things that are sinful or tempt us to sin like not get drunk or look at porn but not too the point where we are obsessed with sin that is discouraging to us.  Another problem is that many Christians tend to forget is that we are no longer under law but under grace. Paul stated this in Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”  Paul was referring to the old covenant of Moses, which we are no longer obligated since the old laws were made for Israelites to follow in order to receive God's blessings and could only condemns those to death who don't follow them.  However, the Israelites failed to live up to all laws or god's standard of perfection as it was too impossible.

Even today, some churches teach that Christians have to follow a long list of rules in order to earn God's love, blessings and favor and perform certain tasks to earn his forgiveness and many Christians believe this.  The fact remains, is that we are all sinners, and will never be free from sin since as human beings we are all imperfect.  This is confirmed in 1 John 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Jesus Christ was the only perfect person who was free from sin and he died for all our sins when he was crucified on the cross.  In the aftermath, Paul was now declaring a new covenant in which Christians are now under grace rather than the old law.  This means God blesses all of us with undeserved favor, love, mercy and forgiveness when we sin.  This however, isn’t a free pass to do as we please no matter how sinful.  Paul confirmed this too in Romans 6:15 “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”  For example, we shouldn't feel free to break the ten commandments, commit adultery, steal, etc.  Christians should strive to follow Christ's teachings and God's laws including the ten commandments.  However, we don’t do these things to earn the Lord’s love or favor since we already have that, but because of our faith in Christ.  Embracing God in our lives and receiving his grace will enable us to strive to do better and be better as we grow more in our spiritual path.  Of course we will sometimes stumble and stray from him but we when we repent he forgives our sins and we are no longer condemned.  

We shouldn’t have to worry about being perfect and not make mistakes which is impossible to fulfill but when he embrace the Lord and Jesus Christ in our lives and our hearts, we will desire to want try to do right and grow more holy in order to honor him.  To me that it’s what all that matters.  As for legalism, I personally don’t believe in being too judgemental by playing the moral police based on a long list of  man-made rules of what Christians should or shouldn’t do in their daily lives.  Instead, I believe in focusing on following Christ, and sometimes reading the bible for guidance and analyzing what they mean in the context the verses are written so as not to take them into context.  

Most importantly I strive to have a clear sense of right and wrong as I try figure it all out.  I don’t claim to always get it right, I don’t believe any Christian will but take one step at time as we struggle to grow everyday in Christ.



    Why do I believe that the Bible is God's truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Why? Because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ! Why do I believe in the resurrection? Why? Because it is a historical fact, recorded in the Bible. There are no living eye witnesses to the resurrection; I accept the historical record in the Bible, by faith.


    Most men accept that Hannibal was born in 247 B.C. and was considered the greatest military tactician and strategist in European history. Why do men believe this? There are no living eye witnesses, so the historical record is accepted, by faith.

    George Washington was the first president of the United States of America 1788-1797. Men accept this as fact, by faith, because of the historical record. There are no eye witnesses who are still alive.

    1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and at last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

    I believe the Bible to be God's record for mankind. I believe it because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. I accept this as accurate historical facts, by faith.




    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

  2. Thank your for your post,as I looking forward what others have to say. I will check out your blog sometime too. Thanks again.