fighting legalism.

Our church is currently doing a couple of sermons a little differently.  On the front side of the sermon they are addressing Grace in the Old Testament (and a little of how legalism ties in), and on the back side they are answering questions that are texted in during the service.  This past week was pretty awesome and I am looking forward to this Sunday as well.  Seeing old things in a new way is always refreshing and always gets me thinking.   

I love it for many reasons, number one being, I love the Old Testament.  To me, it's so relatable and comforting.  A bunch of sinners that continually screw up, yet God continues to forgive, love and bless them anyway?  Yes, please.  I'll take that. 

I also love that our church does not shy away from getting down to the nitty gritty.  We are willing to examine the tough questions and talk about the things many churches shy away from.  Collectively we are seeking an authentic, loving God and loving people, non-judgemental kind of culture.  And it is already bearing much fruit.  That's not to say that "all is permissible", don't get me wrong. 

I also love that we are all working hard to break down the legalism around us, which does us no good and only acts as a barrier between us and the living God.  This week legalism was defined as "placing a prerequisite between us and God's grace".  We decide (based on a lot of things) that FIRST we need the law and THEN a relationship with God will happen.  When in fact, it should be relationship, then law.  Legalism hurts our relationship with God and others in infinite ways.  

As I survey the world around me, legalism does a lot of damage.  And for a lot of reasons.  Largely, legalism is based on what we have always known.  People often don't know why they do something, just that they have always done it that way.  Take for example, thinking you HAVE to dress up for church on Sunday.  Where does that come from?  Some Sundays it's jeans and a t-shirt for me and others I enjoy taking the time to get more dressed up.  Either way, I don't think God cares.  Legalism would be me being judged on those jeans Sundays, even if they can't tell me why.  And I've been told before "it's disrespectful to wear jeans to church", me, "why?", them, "It just is".  Legalism perpetuates "just is" without any backing.  Setting up rules that must be followed even if we don't know why.  This, I feel, leads to a dulling of our intuition of what God is calling us to personally and often places unfair standards on others.  It also creates false buffers between others and God tying us up in an impossible web of superficial standards.      

Another way legalism hurts us is that often people feel that if God makes it so for THEM, then it's their job and mission in life to MAKE it so for OTHERS.  This, I feel, is where "relationship first" comes into play.  God is infinite in His wisdom and ability to care for His children.  Our convictions are generally based on the life story we have and He chooses and places those convictions on us to protect us.  A good example would be alcohol.  I don't drink.  It's never in my house and Doug doesn't drink either.  Personally, I have never seen any good come from it and being the child of an alcoholic, I am not so certain that a little alcoholic demon doesn't live inside me waiting to wake up given the opportunity to do so.  That is a conviction, "assigned" to me based on my life history.  Legalism would be me taking that and trying to force others to follow it as well.  Our convictions are our business.  We weren't charged with "making sure others follow rules", we were charged to love.  

Along those same lines, legalism causes an interruption in blessing others.  A real life example for you, recently I was organizing people who need school supplies with people who wanted to purchase and mail those school supplies.  After assigning someone a list, they emailed me in return and informed me that they had "researched the person in question and based on what they found on their Facebook page, would not be buying supplies".  Ouch.  That hurt my heart on many levels.  Not only were children being hurt by their parents supposed actions (the FB content was no where near "bad"), the blesser was missing out, the blessed were missing out and legalism prevented a blessing.  I couldn't help but think of all the people in my childhood who blessed me despite my parents poor decisions and how different my life would have been had they chose not to help me because of my parents terrible choices. 

In actuality, blessing has very little to do with the person you are blessing, in a way.  A blessing goes from our hands, to God's, to the person we are blessing, making the act intimate with YOU and God AND with THEM and God.  We give to God, He gives to others.   

This past sermon has had my head turning in a million ways, mostly examining and ridding myself of any of my "just is" tendencies.  I know that imposing my beliefs about how life should be lived, doesn't exude God's love.  Legalism never does.  I don't know enough about my best friends life to tell him how to live his life, how could I stand a chance to do that for anyone else? 

Can we discuss or share or give our (solicited) opinions?  Of course! We are doing life together and sometimes we need the direct help and love of others to navigate it.  BUT we have to be willing to give our two cents and know that it may not apply to another person the same way it applies to us, if at all.  That fact should have no merit on how we love or treat the other person. Our business is love.

Relationship (with God or others in fact) then law (or guidelines).   

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