I am grateful for the church of my youth, it was where I was introduced to Christ. It was where I gained the foundation of Bible teaching. It was at the school they started that I spent my last two years of high school and from which I graduated. It was where I made lifelong friends that I remain in contact with.
It was also there that I experienced legalism. Like the excessive laws the Pharisees placed on the Jews, there were times that the church was more concerned with the length of my dress, the height of my neckline, the length of my hair, and that the place I worked didn’t serve alcohol than with my spiritual growth. They weren’t bad people. They also weren’t free people and my heart rebelled against the premise that God was more interested in those things than my heart.
Jesus died to set us free from that sort of life. He told us that when the heart is right, the outside changes. We will never change the heart by washing the hands. It’s always the other way around.
And let me tell you, some of the things done in the attempt to make people pure can drive them away from church and Christ instead of changing their hearts. I lost the opportunity to continue to minister to people because I worked at a grocery store that was participating in bringing Sunday beer sales to the county. That hurt deeply and the pain lasted for years. It took a long time before I realized that wasn’t Jesus, it was people.
Freedom from the rigidity of legalism to the beauty of relationship is what Christ died to give us. The trouble is, though, it’s REALLY easy to slip back into the old ways. I mean, think about it, with the legalistic ways, you had a checklist of what to do and not do. Easy to check off each thing and feel good about where you stood.
Relationship takes work and time and paying attention. We can go on autopilot and follow the rule book. We have to be present to maintain the relationship.
Remember when Moses led the people from slavery in Egypt? They were barely outside the borders when they were ready to head back! They wanted to go back to what they knew instead of continuing into this unknown of freedom.
Let’s heed Paul’s warning to not return to the bondage of the law. Look at how you approach life today. Are you constantly operating from a do/don’t checklist or are you nurturing a growing relationship with your Lord? It’s for this freedom from legalism that Christ set us free. Let’s make sure we’re not returning to those chains.
Coffee, Bible, Journal.