“For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations?” Colossians 2:20
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by any of them.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
Sometimes I wonder if we even read the Bible back then. I recently did an in-depth study of the book of Colossians and the whole time I kept thinking, “How did I miss this for so many years? Did we just skip this book?” We seem to also have skipped Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Corinthians, etc. We skipped all the parts of the Bible that condemned legalism and instead spent a lot of time in the Old Testament and the gospels…looking for rules to follow. Here’s a definition of legalism for those of you who are lucky never to have experienced this way of life.
These definitions hit close to home for me as I think about the home school program I was raised in (ATI: The Advanced Training Institute), the cultish church we attended or were affiliated with for most of my teens/early twenties, and the way I lived my life for almost ten years. It wasn’t my choice to get involved at first; I was a child that was taken along by my parents. Later, since I wanted people to think well of me, I learned to follow the rules and perform correctly with the best of them.
“What’s wrong with following the rules?”
“Are you saying we should just live in sin?”
“God has called us to be holy and different from the world”
I can hear the questions.
People living in legalism spend a lot of time pointing fingers at other people in judgement, while feeling good about themselves. “You’re wrong because you do blah, blah, blah. And I’m right because I do this, this, and this.” The only person worthy to judge the sins of humanity didn’t. The only people Jesus ever yelled at were the Pharisees who thought they were so perfect. But he got down in the dirt with sinners and forgave them. Maybe it’s not about rules. Maybe it’s about Jesus.
I grew up in a cultish subculture of Christianity. It’s still out there. But more concerning to me is the legalism I see in mainstream churches. When we put the focus on ourselves through legalism, we steal God’s glory and we alienate people from the only One who can save them!
I’m going to be writing a couple more posts about legalism and false teachers, so stay tuned! 🙂