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Legalism’s bad fruit

It’s Valentine’s Day, so here are some thoughts on an aspect of love – that being the subject of grace. One of the main practical differences between Christianity and other religions is the way we practice grace. When it’s missing from the body of Christ, generally the culprit is legalism. And…
By Seth Barnes

It’s Valentine’s Day, so here are some thoughts on an aspect of love – that being the subject of grace.

One of the main practical differences between Christianity and other religions is the way we practice grace. When it’s missing from the body of Christ, generally the culprit is legalism. And the bad fruit of legalism is judgment and a sense of superiority in people who are just as messed up as you and me. Whenever I’m around people who judge me, like most folks, I run the other way. I’m guessing you do too. Life is hard enough without somebody sizing you up and finding you wanting in one way or another. And, in a marriage, it will suffocate any love that was ever there.
 
The irony is that most Christians have never drunk deeply of the living waters of grace and are still mired in the same legalism that characterizes man-made religions that prescribe some variation on a To Do list as their “means of grace.”

valentineTake a second to catalog the requirements of the major religions:

  • Judaism – You must follow the Torah.
  • Buddhism – You must follow the path of enlightenment.
  • Islam – You must do five specific things.
  • Hinduism – You must devote yourself to a way of life.
  • Shintoism – You must honor your ancestors.
  • Confucianism – You must live wisely.
  • Christianity – You can’t do anything except give up.

Most Americans want to believe; they want to go to church. The reason they don’t is that they feel judged by the people who go there. They already know they’re sinners – they live with the consequences of that every day of life. But they’ve never felt the hug of grace that says, “I’m a sinner too, and I’m going to love you anyway.”

To the extent that we’ve added any requirements to this good news of grace, we’re just as guilty as any of the other religions of falling into the trap of legalism. Far too many mainline denominations have gone down this path and are experiencing a decline in their membership.

Occasionally in life, you’ll stumble across a community of Jesus-followers who live this way and you’ll taste the delicious living waters of grace. When you experience that, it’s like experiencing a touch from the Master himself.

Outside the jail of legalism that produces the bad fruit of judgment, you see why this faith of ours and the grace it produces truly is amazing. You see why the gospel of Jesus isn’t just good news – it’s fabulous and overwhelming and miraculous.

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