Please Stop Calling Me A Legalist (Part 2)
If you are reading this it means you made it to part two. Thank you for continuing with me.
As I said before, it is not my intent to play the victim or stir the pot. I truly see this as an important issue that needs to be talked about. It is my goal here to unify Christians in an area where so many are deeply divided. I hope this accomplishes that goal in some way, small though it may be.
In part one we talked about the issue of simply calling someone a legalist and stopping at that. Here in part two, I want to talk about why this is a bad thing to do and what a potential alternative might be. I hope this serves as somewhat of a bridge between these two camps. Here we go.
The second issue that comes to the forefront is that simply calling someone a legalist, does not accomplish anything. It tears down when we should be building up. We should be stirring
"...one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25
We should all be encouraging one another in our faith and love for Christ. This means calling each other out in sin or areas of concern. We hold each other accountable. Again, I am very aware that there is real legalism out there and I am not saying we should never call it out when we see it. What I am saying is that the vast majority of what is being called legalism today simply isn’t. It is simply Christians working out their part in the sanctification process and taking it very seriously. They want to be more like Jesus and this means denying themselves the things they believe could cause them harm in this endeavor. We should actually all be doing this. We should all take inventory of our lives regularly and take an account of potential dangers in our lives. Why would we not? There is no reason not to.
Maybe instead of simply calling out a behavior as legalistic, we should take an honest look at our own lives and see if we perhaps have a potential to struggle in it. Maybe we would find that the reason we are quick to call out legalism is because we have allowed our consciences to be seared in that particular area? It’s at least a possibility any Christian that wants to be like Jesus should consider. When presented with a conviction different from our own, as a Christian, the least we should do is consider whether or not the conviction is correct. Just consider. If you come to the same conclusion afterward then okay.
As Christians, let’s not let our pride get in the way of at least thinking about the issue and keeping a sensitive heart toward our brothers and sisters. If we don’t even take the time to consider, and simply resort to calling them a legalist, what does that say about the condition of our own heart? Why are we so against it? Is it something we don’t want to consider giving up because we like it too much? Is it an idol or something we show too much devotion toward? Why would we not at the very least consider that maybe we should think about the issue differently. We should never assume that our hearts cannot be enslaved by something we currently do not struggle with. Our sinful hearts love turning those things into deep seated idols that will lurk in the dark and bite when we least expect them to. We can help each other with this danger. This is what Christians on both sides of this argument can do. We sharpen and strengthen each other through love and grace. Let’s all be more open to this from our Christian family.
If I disagree with someone’s conviction on a particular issue, the very first step I should take is to ask myself why. Why do I disagree with it? Is it actually unbiblical? Is it sin? This works on both sides of this argument. It’s an important question for everyone to ask themselves. Instead of simply slinging Bible verses at each other that are almost always taken out of proper context, why not look into our own hearts and see if we have an ulterior motive for thinking the behavior is legalistic or sinful. Whatever the case, if someone doesn’t want to watch a certain movie, or engage in a certain activity, or believes it is unwise for Christians to indulge in certain things, instead of calling them a legalist and dropping passive aggressive quips or condescending jokes, perhaps just take three seconds and consider the possibility that they may be right. Why...
...because that’s what Christians do for each other. We think the best and hope the best about each other. We love one another. We build each other up. We support each other in our convictions, even if we do not think those convictions necessarily apply to us. This is possible with secondary convictions, we are allowed to do this. I will be honest, I have been called a legalist many times in my life. There were times where I truly was. There are times where I was not. In any case, I want to be a man that has a sensitive conscience. I want to live in a way that honors Christ to the best of my ability. I want to live in a way that brings no shame upon Jesus in the eyes of the world and the Church. I want to have my standards high and my heart girded against any potential threat that would come between me and my Jesus. Proverbs 4:23-27 says,
"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil."
I want to keep my heart guarded against anything that could be a threat to my sanctification. I don’t ever want anything to be more important to me than Christ. I want other Christians to walk along side me in this as we encourage and convict each other. I don’t want people to simply agree with everything I say, of course not. I want to be challenged, loved, convicted, and encouraged by other Christians. I don’t want people who simply call me a legalist. This does no good. We can do better. More than often, that person you call a legalist might just be a very loving brother or sister in Christ. So let’s work together to keep our consciences sensitive toward any threat. Let’s keep Christ as our example as we walk together toward His image. Let’s have the conversations as iron sharpens iron. Let’s not resort to sarcasm or condescension. Let’s be slow to call one another legalists or liberals and quick to listen and love. Love hopes all things.