The Lure of Legalism

The lure of legalism comes from the desire to be right which can be greater than the desire to believe. Being right means personal and public control. Belief means surrender and submission to something greater.

Jesus warned the disciples about the the lure of legalism from the Pharisees and Sadducees because of this control aspect. Kent commenting on my last post gave great insight to this tendency. ‘No one wants to labeled as a Pharisee any more. Instead we come up with fancy names (liberal, progressive, forward thinking, radical & outreach) to mask our own separateness and arrogance. Since God’s favor is now reserved for the most enlightened, we don’t have room for the doubters, stragglers & strugglers. So, we develop our own systems to measure our purity, commitment and dedication all with the goal of making us feel good about our Phariseeism.’

This legalistic tendency means placing our personal control above God’s.

We enter the danger zone of the lure of legalism when we start defining ourselves beyond the basic terms of disciple, follower, or Christian. For this reason I detest the term Evangelical. It smells of the beginnings of thinking myself a little more elite than a basic disciple. So what if the terms Christian and disciple have become watered down? Does not God know me? Does not my behavior demonstrate who I follow? Why do I need to define myself as a special type of disciple? Does this term somehow mean I’m going to follow Christ more closely than another? Do I somehow appear more loving if I call myself Evangelical? Does this label assist others in finding Christ?

No, I will join the ‘doubters, stragglers, and strugglers,’ and I will repent of calling myself more than simply a follower of Him. One moment spent defining or explaining myself wastes a moment because I look away from Jesus. Who will I positively influence by my definition of myself? I will live as a disciple or follower and that alone.

If I really need another term to describe myself and think it important, I will not insist you agree. I just ask that you spend more time sharing your walk and experience of Jesus than your definitions about yourself and pray about avoiding the lure of legalism.

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