The Irony of Legalism

Legalism has a great irony to it. Often we see legalism as people who try to do everything for God and judge everyone who doesn’t. This is true. But here’s the irony. It works the other way around too, doesn’t it? Here’s where I often find myself. I’m trying really hard not to be legalistic. I’m not doing a bunch of unnecessary good works, I’m resting in God’s grace, I’m trying to love everyone around me. I’m living how I legitimately think God wants me to live. But then I see someone who is being legalistic and just as they’re probably judging me, I start judging them. Except it’s the opposite. I’m judging them for doing things they don’t have to, for not resting in God’s love, and worst of all: I’m judging them for judging. And that’s the irony. I’m doing what I think the Bible actually teaches about Christian living yet I am in the exact same sin as the legalists. I’m judging those who aren’t living like me.

The truth is, I think God reveals himself in many different ways in the Bible on purpose. He’s the Bridegroom, the Perfect Father, the Righteous Judge, the Great Physician, and many, many other things. Some people really get the whole Righteous Judge thing. I don’t get it. But what I do understand more of is the Bridegroom and the Perfect Father because I gravitate toward love while some people gravitate toward justice. Not that they’re mutually exclusive, I just understand love better than justice.

While us “it’s not a religion it’s a relationship-ists” (which isn’t in the Bible) may understand the loving sides of God better, the Legalists may relate more to the Judge in God.

And you know what?

That’s okay.

We don’t all have to agree or understand God in the same way to be the body of Christ. We just have to love and believe in Jesus, which I’m sure the legalist and the not-legalist can both agree on.

So Legalists and Non-Legalists alike, let us give up our judgment, embrace the mysteries of God, and love each other as brothers and sisters in the same God, Jesus Christ.