Beware the Legalistic Christian
Regularly, I’m reminded why we need Jesus in our lives. This became all the clearer to me during a conversation the other day with a close friend of mine. We were talking about prayer and our personal relationship with Jesus. You see, he doesn’t pray because he believes that regardless of prayer, what will be, will be. Why should he pray to God if there is nothing to be done about it? I asked him if he believed in God, and he said sure, but that it was hard for him to devote any time to the study of God.
On my drive home, I thought about this. I spend every Saturday night pouring over scripture in preparation for my Sunday morning Bible study (you’re always invited to join me). However, I’m no better off, in God’s eyes, than my friend who cannot or chooses not to study God’s word. If I believed that I was, I would be venturing into Christian legalism, and that’s just as bad as not being in a relationship with God at all.
So, What is Christian Legalism?
Defined, it is the wrong use of laws or rules to attain glory. For example, there is a form of legalism that uses rules or commandments as a way of salvation. Such laws, in and of themselves, might be proper, but they cannot save a soul. Thus, Paul warns against the view that salvation can come about by keeping the law, as the Judaizers erroneously taught.
Why is Legalism So Wrong?
Tullian Tchividjian, an American Pastor, said, “Legalism says God will love us if we change. The gospel says God will change us because He loves us.”
1st: Legalism sucks the joy out of believing in God. It also eliminates the idea of grace, mercy, and unconditional love because a grace that is not free or that cannot be received by simple faith is no grace at all. Yet, even knowing this, grace is hard to accept. It’s not natural. We believe that our good works are essential to human love and acceptance and so we transfer that belief to Godly love and acceptance too.
2nd: We often (even the best of us) use legalism as a one-up-manship on one another. I’m better off with God and will receive more blessings because I did _____________. It’s a slippery slope that takes us right out of compassion and care for our fellow human beings and further away from being what Christianity is all about— transformed by God’s love and grace.
So, while I drove home from my meeting with my friend, I prayed that God would change his heart and help him to know Him, and then I prayed that God would keep mine from the legalistic trap so prevalent in many of our Christian churches that keep people like my friend from searching out a genuine relationship with God.
YOU, THEN, WHY DO YOU JUDGE YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER? OR WHY DO YOU TREAT THEM WITH CONTEMPT? FOR WE WILL ALL STAND BEFORE GOD’S JUDGMENT SEAT.