What do you think of when you think of legalism? I think of self-righteous people who look down on others for *gasp* drinking beer, or dancing, or playing cards, or… I think of people who look down on a woman who has a sexual past because they can’t seem to understand that the broken woman is a new creation in Christ. To me, these issues seem to be a thing of the past. I don’t live in the Bible belt, so I assume this problem still exists. However, I am surrounded by amazing believers who understand the grace of the Bible. We’re all gross and disgusting sinners. How dare I look down on a sister for her sexual past when bitterness has stripped joy from my life in years past?
However, it seems like there’s a new wave of legalism out there. It’s not about looking down on people for the bad things or sins that they are/were caught up in, but rather it’s about judging others because they’re not DOING something. (And that something is specifically tied to whatever the person is passionate about.) Don’t get me wrong, as Christians we SHOULD be loving others. However, there’s a movement of restless people who think, “If you’re not adopting/working to end human trafficking/feeding the hungry in third world countries/etc. then there’s something lacking in your Christian faith.” or “Look at me, look at what I am doing/did for the gospel, what are you doing?” It’s a haughty, self-righteous attitude.
There are a handful of new books floating around that have changed people’s lives and have spurred them to do amazing things for the gospel. But these same books are fostering this attitude of self-righteousness. They spurn middle-class life and basically say there are no excuses for not doing what they promote as a worthy cause. This is a new burden placed on believers.
Here’s the thing though. Outsiders don’t necessarily know what’s going on within the family. What about…
- the family who is strategically sharing the gospel with their middle class neighbors
- the family that provides bread and milk for the less fortunate down the street
- the family that gives up autonomous life and works to support and live with a disabled family member
- the family that fosters children
- the wife who’s desire is to serve others more, but needs to submit to her unbelieving, or less mature husband
- the family that sacrifices family time for misc ministry purposes
- the family that still lives well but donates 1/2 their income
- the woman who cleans the church weekly
- the man who is faithful to stack chairs, etc.
The point is, is that sometimes the Christian life does not call people to travel to a foreign country, adopt a child, or even evangelize on the street. Sometimes the Christian life calls people to labor where they are, for the people already in their circle of acquaintance. They are called to do the invisible jobs. The Bible calls us to live in such a way where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. So, if you are a disciple of Christ who has been called to something public (like adoption, I mean, it’s really hard to keep that secret) that’s AWESOME! But don’t become self-righteous and look down on others who don’t have a heart for [enter your passion here]. Assume the best of your brothers and sisters in Christ. God has (or will) more than likely burdened their hearts with something, but you may never hear about it. It may be something that is only between them and God and you will never know of the sacrifice they have given.
Let’s get rid of the old legalism and let’s get rid of the new legalism. Let’s get rid of this, “What are YOU doing?” mentality and remember that the Christian life is often about doing, in that by doing we’re loving others, but it’s also about being; simply resting in who Christ is and what He has done. I don’t HAVE to DO because of what He has DONE. And the only reason we DO (read love) is because I am FIRST loved. Don’t be impatient with those who are behind you on this amazing road of Christ. Meet them where THEY are but keep in mind, they might be ahead of you because of the secret sacrifices they’ve made that you’ll never know about.