(I think that most of us sincerely want to please God, and churches have tremendous power in teaching people what that means. The problem is, though we want to please God, our bodies are weighted with cravings for men's approval. We reach for God but naturally sink back to religion. The difference is difficult to discern. We rejoice in grace, but are also terrified of it. Inevitably we set-up parameters and guidelines and fences by which to measure our own, and everybody else's, spirituality. I think that every church, and every believer, naturally drifts towards legalism in some form, and we must constantly root it out. This is what I have observed, anyway.)
The thing that kills me about legalism is that churches continually pick the most seeming arbitrary things to be legalistic about, and things that are of no use to anyone. So this is my solution: if we're going to be legalistic, why not at least be legalistic in a way that does something good, instead of freaking out about something that affects no one but our own sense of self-righteousness.
So, since I am the Legalist, and this is my own legalistic blog where I get to make the arbitrary legalistic rules, this is what I think would be good things to be legalistic about:
Legalism #1: No one should own a pet if they do not also sponsor a child.
How much does a monthly supply of pet food cost? Not to mention veterinary visits, grooming, little pet toys . . . and then there's the annoyance factor. That ought to be worth something. We spend unbelievable amounts of money on pet food, but balk at sending $32 a month to feed a child. (Now you may be thinking, why pick on people with pets? What about your coffee addiction? Because it's my legalistic blog and I don't like pets. That's why.)
Legalism #2 No one can protest abortion if they do not also foster a child, adopt a child, or financially support an unwed mother.
Abortion protesters drive me nuts. I think abortion is wrong, but I wonder if offending people is really the best method for changing their minds. I also know that there are children unloved, neglected, being abused in our own country, and I don't see many Christians doing anything about it (though there are some). Don't act like you care about the unborn when you don't care about the more complicated issue of the born. It reminds me of the verse, "And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" (James 2.16). We condemn mothers for having abortions, but we don't spend a minute learning about their situation, or an hour to try to help them, and are infuriated at the thought of our taxes being raised to assist them. Then there are the 11 million children who die every year from malnutrition and preventable diseases, who ARE loved and have mothers who WEEP. Why not focus our outrage and protesting and creative resources on these children?
Legalism #3: Christians should not work-out or go to the gym when there is work to be done.
Once again, I could pick on people who spend time going to movies or . . . blogging. But these are my arbitrary rules and I'd like a good reason not to work-out . . . and, there is work to be done. Elderly people with lawns that need mowed, streets that need cleaned, low-income housing that needs renovated. We all want to get exercise and be in shape, so rather than spending an hour at the gym, spend an hour doing something physical for somebody in need. Like, imagine a Christian "gym" where you could sign-up for a mowing class, or a help-your-neighbor-move class, or a walk in the park and play with kids class? Ok, so maybe those of you who actually like to sweat won't appreciate this idea, but it burns calories and does good- Christian multitasking! (And now I have a good excuse, another benefit of being legalistic).
So now that I have highly offended all of my readers I will just try to abide by my own rules. I am a hypocrite. We don't sponsor a child, or foster, and I do nothing physically to help my neighbors. I want to change.
Obviously, that's the problem with legalism. It sets a measurable standard but has no measurement for the heart. I am looking at myself, how selfish I am, little I live out the grace and love I have been given. I want to put on love, in practical ways to be about fulfilling the law of Christ.