Friday, February 8, 2013

The Joys (and dangers) of Legalism Part IV

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." -
Galatians 3: 23-25

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of legalism:  Strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code (the institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice).
Let’s face it, that has no place in a marriage or relationship of any kind!  Basically that is saying you have to conform to my ways and thoughts or you are not right.  You have no free choice.  You do not deserve an opinion!  The old saying if you love someone, you will set them free is absolutely true.  Not only will you set them free, you will do everything in your power to help them soar.  In marriage and relationships, you complement each other.  You may not always agree with each other, but you respect the difference. 

The love that God gives to us is unconditional.  That means there is nothing we can do or say to earn His love.  That is the kind of love He wants us to have for one another.  We should love those closest to us without them having to meet our expectations.  When legalism comes into a relationship, love goes out and grace is nowhere to be found.  Grace and legalism cannot co-exist because legalism is the opposite of grace.  Legalism is not accepting people the way they are.  It is putting conditions on our love and acceptance.  Usually, we do not enjoy being around people who put conditions on their love for us.  It can leave us feeling constantly condemned and like we are always missing the mark.  The relationship between husbands and wives will suffer when one starts believing things like “If only he would do this or that better I’d be happy”… or “If only she would clean the house more often we would get along better …”  Legalism, with its work-for-acceptance basis, works in contrast to the Gospel and its grace-through-faith reality.

The Real Deal
Legalism is easy.  Being real is hard. You can’t fake real love, humility, compassion, kindness and gentleness, because they can only come from God.  Living in the Spirit cannot be obtained by those who rely on themselves (their good deeds) to be good enough for God because the Holy Spirit does all the work!  It is cannot be faked.

When we live a life of legalism, our hearts are not in it.  It can produce an air of self-righteousness which has no place in our relationships.  It takes away authenticity.  Everything we do is for ourselves. But when we live in the Spirit of God, everything we do is for God and for His Kingdom. Our love for our loved ones becomes real, not just a good deed in our collection of good deeds to prove to God how good we are, and not a selfish action toward them to earn the respect and love of those around us.

Selfish Love
Legalism causes us to be self-centered. It takes the focus off of God and others and makes it all about us (which is what Satan wants).  The devil doesn’t want us to feel God’s grace, to experience God’s grace, to live in God’s grace and he sure doesn’t want us to pass it on!  Satan knows that once we experience God’s grace why would we want to live with that horrible feeling of never measuring up, not living up to other’s expectations?  The obvious choice is to live in joyful freedom.  There is nothing like being able to be yourself and be free with the ones you love the most, without fear of rejection or condemnation. 

Scripture to claim:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  I Corinthians 13:4-7

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