As the old saying goes, I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out. :-) I posted a message on facebook and a discussion broke out ...a good one. I wanted to share the thoughts of some friends and responses here as it has some relevance to the series I am beginning concerning Jesus and the Religious People...so, here goes --
One of the things I marvel at -- how many Christians are unwilling to have their faith challenged, but quickly judge and condemn new ideas without even giving them a look. It is possible to view things differently without automatically assuming they are wrong...this is what Jesus was trying to tell the religious people of His day during His three year ministry...
One friend shares this -- If I'm not mistaken, that would fall under the category of legalism...many a good church has let that ugly word split 'em right down the middle!!! Do you find that this is more prevalent in the 'Bible Belt'? Just curious. Another friend added this -- you are so right. Remember that legalism is seen among more conservatives and liberals. The difference is one binding what God did not bind. The other looses what God has not loosed....
It could be...I find that some well-meaning people are willfully ignorant and do not want to learn...and this can lead to a legalistic spirit, no matter where you live -- and I have observed it across the country and the world. To me, legalism is a heart matter...it is a hardness of spirit that has come as the result of a closed mind and closed nature to God's spiritual leading; it says...I know everything I need to know, have experienced what I have needed to experience and no one is going to tell me anything different. It is remarkable to me in that this is so antithetical to everything Jesus taught and lived for...yet, the temptation to slip into this way of life is great. Indeed, there can be this hardness at either extreme...what we call conservative or liberal. What Christians have done best in regard to this discussion is to bind where God has loosed. Another interesting point is that -- being willing to consider new ideas and principles does not make one "a liberal." It may very well make them spiritual, as opposed to legal in their belief system, however. True "liberalism," from a theological perspective, in short, is to deny the inspiration of the Word and the deity, humanity or salvation of Christ.
Another friend offered this statement -- I don't (know) when the word legalism began ... it Is Not In The Bible. I appreciate the good, honest discussion concerning this subject. While the word, "legalism" is not found in the Word (and neither is the word "trinity")...the concept is found in numerous places. The Greek word that is probably closest to the concept would be "anomia," which means "iniquity" or "lawlessness." This might seem antithetical to what we are discussing, but I actually believe that there is much truth in that, if we are considering the "heart of the matter," legalism does take one away from truth and therefore, "iniquity" and "lawlessness" is what remains...and the fruit born by one who is given to this mindset is generally consistent with it.
A final, wonderful statement from a friend -- "I resolved to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified..." "I want to know Christ and the power of His rising; share in His sufferings and conform to His death! When I pour out my life to be filled with His Spirit, joy follows suffering and life follows death." Rather than focusing on what we should do, we should focus on Who do we know! Doing follows naturally, as the fruit of the Spirit within.
Thank you, this is a good point. One of the things that occurs to me is -- since when is "the church" the standard for all of these matters of doctrine and practice?...it should be Jesus Christ! If this was the case with all believers, then all of our petty dogmatisms and arguments would melt away and we would truly begin to understand "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
And so it goes... :-)