Thursday, May 16, 2013

My thoughts on Legalism

We must be careful with our definition of legalism because it could become the very excuse as to why we choose not to obey God. 

Now I know that statement can be mis-understood but let me try to shed some light on it. 

While running with my son, Josh this week, the term legalism surfaced and he shed some good light on it with me. Plus he has been engaged in many discussions on it as a leader in College. Some of his thoughts really brought new insight for me.

We all make choices as to how we live our lives for Jesus. As long as we are running after him daily with all of our might, the method is not of concern to me. As long as the discipleship process truly stretches us and pushes us to the point where we need God to help us complete it. And if that is the case then the form is a mute point.

However, Jesus said often in the Bible,"if you love me then obey me, or obey my commands." It was a black and white command. It can be remiss of wanting to, or feeling like I want to, and it leaves no option but to do it, because he wants us to. I realize the opposite is true too. We can obey him because we feel compelled to, or really want to. 

Both end up at the same place doing what Jesus commanded us to do. One because we have to and the other because we want to.

Yet, I have watched a huge swing of the pendulum take place in my lifetime in respect to legalism. We have swung so far right of it, because of all the negative connotations attached to it that any level of  checking off a list connected to discipleship is often viewed with skewed eyes. As a result, legalism has now become an excuse as to why the daily check-off list of discipleship is not good for us.

CS Lewis made an interesting statement in his book "Mere Christianity" when he said, "the first step in becoming Christ-like is to pretend that we are like Jesus even if we are not." In other words do the things that Jesus would have us do even if we don't feel like doing it. Thanks to Josh for reminding me of this.

As a parent I want my children to do the right things that will shape them into godly adults one day. There are things they are required to do as my children that I want them to do. There are daily requirements they need to check off the list because their Father wants them to. And I am sure there are times they do them only because they have to {legalism}. 

However, if they come to me and say I really don't feel like obeying you Dad, or I am only going to do these things when I feel led to do them. So I want you to know they feel like a list of rules to me {legalism} and I choose not to do them. Now, how would that go over in your home? We want them to do it because we know that those very disciplines will one day become life-long habits that will help shape them into godly adults.

All that to say this, I think we must be very careful when we begin to choose or not choose to have a daily list in our lives filled with godly disciplines based upon whether or not it feels legalistic. Jesus said if you love me, just obey me regardless of how you feel about it. So when your child tells you "Dad, I really feel like this is just just a bunch of rules and a list that my heart is not into it; so I want you to know that I am not going to do it because it wreaks of legalism, what will you say?" 

There are many days in my life I do not feel like checking off the list, but I do it anyhow because I want to obey my Father-God.

No comments: