re: A Legal Religion.

A couple of weeks back I came across a blog post titled A Legal Religion. I read through it once, thought she had some good ideas, read through it again, and completely changed my mind. In a comment under the post I informed the author that I would be writing a response to her note on my blog in the near future. The time has come.

My intention is not to be mean or rude in any way, despite how this note sounds. I’m a little cranky at the moment – and yes, I’m fully admitting that to you all here and now. So please keep that in mind as you read this. My attitude may seem a bit harsh, but honestly I think that may be a good way to appoach this.

“What boggles my mind is how after seeing time and time again that such a lifestyle doesn’t work, some people still believe it does or that it can. That we, the young adults today, were the reason the experiment went wrong.”

It doesn’t work? Are you sure? So are the millions who still hold true to their so-called “legalistic” upbringing merely just exceptions to your theory?

And if the ones who “left,” “departed from their upbringing,” “ran wild at the first sign of freedom” (or whatever else you want to call it) aren’t the ones to blame, who do you suggest is… the parents? The Pastor? Other local church leaders?

No, that can’t be. Each individual is responsible for themselves. We’re not discussing sexual or physical abuse. We’re not discussing verbal harassment. We’re not discussing enslavement or some other form of human trafficking. We’re talking about standards and convictions – simple Biblically-based “rules” that some churches and families adhere to.

“but many…have become very liberal in the ways we were taught to believe in, or have given up completely on the idea of religion, and possibly God. Doesn’t this make anyone stop and sincerely ask, ‘Why?’”

Sure. I suppose many do ask why. And the answer is usually always the same – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The “why” is the exact reason the cross had to happen in the first place… and it’s traceable back to the Garden of Eden.

We’re human. We don’t like to be told what to do. We don’t like rules, authority, or restrictions. And that’s because we are sinners. We can’t help it — it’s just “who we are.” And that’s exactly why we need  the rules, authorities over us, and restrictions. It’s good for us, really.

“I think the answer is found in the very Book that was used in a twisted way to support false beliefs and unfair rules.”

What is false about it? You mentioned dating – what exactly DO you know about it? Where is it in the Bible? I could be wrong, but Isaac and Rebecca didn’t have much say in the matter. As a matter of fact, neither did Hosea and Gomer. Or Adam and Eve. The idea of “dating” is found nowhere in Scripture.

I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes with you: “God didn’t create one Adam and five Eves and say ‘Go ahead, date around and see which one you like the best.’ He said, ‘Adam, I know what you need and I’m going to create that for you.'” ~ Lauren Barlow

“Unfair rules”…? Take a look around – nothing in life is fair, or at least very little is. Even Calvary wasn’t fair. Regardless of fairness though, we sure got the better end of the deal in the long run. God gets a bunch of sinners, and we get God. I’ll take that unfair trade.

“And you tell me, who wants to believe in a religion like that? Sure, the world can be a cruel place, but wouldn’t you rather have that than feel like you’re in prison because you’re doing “right”?”

You want to know who? I’m raising my hand, and I suppose the aforementioned million others who believe like I do are raising their hands with me.

Your second argument is a lose-lose situation. Or maybe it just doesn’t make sense to me. The truth is that this world IS a prison. It’s a prison where sin and death and corruption are ever-present. It’s a prison where lies and sickness and destruction lurk around every corner. No matter what we do, if we’re saved by the blood of Christ we will feel like we’re in a prison here on earth – whether we’re doing right or wrong. That’s just how this works. We escape the prison when we die. Until then, we can find freedom from sin if we’re willing to obey…

There is freedom in the law.

Rules are in place to protect. Laws are there to help keep order and sanity intact. Did you know that the Word of God is referred to as the Law? Did you also know that we’re to love It? In fact, Psalm 119 is peppered with verses about God’s Law.

“Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” ~ Psalm 119:77, 97

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” ~ Psalm 119:165

Let me explain my above statement “There is freedom in the law” with a few bullet point examples.

  • Rule: no sex before marriage.  Freedom: no children out of wedlock. no STD’s.
  • Rule: no texting while driving.  Freedom: no car accidents. no text-related deaths of others.
  • Rule: no stealing or lying.  Freedom: no jail-time, criminal records, trust issues, etc.
  • Rule: no getting drunk.  Freedom: no memory lapse. no stupid decisions. no loss of inhibitions.

“Religion, God himself, isn’t about how good a person looks on the outside; it’s about how good the heart is. If the heart is right, the outward actions will take care of themselves.”

I’m going to address this section piece by piece, but not in order.

“It’s about how good the heart is.”  No, I don’t really think so. Our hearts automatically disqualify us from anything “good.” God said:

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” ~ Proverbs 28:26

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” ~ Jeremiah 17:9

“If the heart is right, the outward actions will take care of themselves.”  I take this to mean that whatever’s on the inside will show forth on the outside. Amen. You are 100% right. I couldn’t agree with you more. The problem is you seem to think they should somehow cancel each other out. As if to say:

If my heart is right, then everything else is just fine and dandy.

As long as my heart is in the right place, what I do on the outside won’t really matter – because my heart is right.

No one can judge me because of what they see on the outside… my heart is right and that’s all that really matters.

Meh. If that’s the case then why do so many people try to hide their actions around others? Why does the outside not seem to match up with what people say is on the inside? The outer appearance is the mirror of the heart. You’re not fooling anyone. Well, maybe you are… but you’re not fooling God.

“Religion, God Himself, isn’t about how good a person looks on the outside.”  Yes and no. While God looks at the heart, he also wants us to look good on the outside. Let me clarify…

If God is our Father and we are His children, then it’s only right to assume that since He is a King, we are also royalty. Would you not expect someone of royalty to dress as such? Would you not expect them to speak and act as such? If someone walked up to you in stained, torn rags and proclaimed themselves to be royalty, you would probably laugh at them. What runs through their blood, what they are on the inside should show forth on the outside.

So how is it any different for us who call ourselves Christians? We should look, act, speak, dress ourselves like children of the King – not like children of the world. We are IN the world, but not OF it. There is a huge difference.

So, yes – God sees the heart, but He also sees the outside. And it matters. It really matters – especially in regards to our Christian testimony. We represent our Father, the King of kings… and it matters a great deal.

What do you think? Am I wrong?
Did I miss something?
Do you have anything you’d like to add?

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Posted on April 7, 2011, in Christian Life, Re: and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Great Blog post. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the Blog template if you need any assistance customizing it let me know!

  2. No-one is declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law. The very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

    We look at what people look like on the outside, but God looks at the heart.

    So the heart must be a good and genuine measure of a person. Except we can’t see it, only God sees it.

  3. Hey, Girly. For the most part, I agree with your post, except for a few minor things. And even these things may be things that have just come across differently than they were meant to.

    You state,”It doesn’t work? Are you sure? So are the millions who still hold true to their so-called “legalistic” upbringing merely just exceptions to your theory?”

    My response to that is that for the millions who still hold true to their “legalistic” upbringing, there are an equal number of those who have changed. So basically, to be fair on all sides, you have to acknowledge that the numbers of those who’ve ‘left’ is just as high.

    Your next statement, posted below:

    “And if the ones who “left,” “departed from their upbringing,” “ran wild at the first sign of freedom” (or whatever else you want to call it) aren’t the ones to blame, who do you suggest is… the parents? The Pastor? Other local church leaders?

    No, that can’t be. Each individual is responsible for themselves. We’re not discussing sexual or physical abuse. We’re not discussing verbal harassment. We’re not discussing enslavement or some other form of human trafficking. We’re talking about standards and convictions – simple Biblically-based “rules” that some churches and families adhere to”

    My response: Yes, we are all accountable for our actions. But should a child, who has been raised and ONLY exposed to a specific way of life, be held accountable for that? Nope. Children are helpless. They are sponges that will cling to whatever Mom and Dad say is OK. And yes, you stated that it’s not sexual or physical abouse, or even verbal harassment. But there is such a thing as EMOTIONAL abuse and MENTAL abuse. When children are raised to believe that a woman’s ONLY purpose in life is to serve a man (which is very legalistic to me) that IS a form of mental abuse. When children are taught that it’s a sin for men to wear shorts, that to me, is also another form. All those ‘convictions’ you speak of, turn into GUILT DRIVEN CONTROL. When parents, pastors, or any leadership use guilt as a form of control, IT IS THEIR FAULT. Growing up, the children have no choice but to obey.

    So, all of that to say this: We have freedom of choice at a certain age and can then choose to keep these standards and convictions as our own – or not. But the blame of this legalistic and twisting of God’s Word, making a conviction into LAW, is clearly the fault of the one doing the leading.

    One more example and I’m done….In religions where children are taught that its biblical to marry at age 13 and have children with 50 year old men….who’s at fault then? The child? Not hardly. The ‘level’ of legalism or the degree of convictions is not the point. The point is that someone IS responsible, and I don’t believe it’s the child.

    (I’m not trying to be ‘satans advocate’ here, I’m just giving my opinion based on what I’ve lived. I hope I’ve not offended you. You know I love you tons, no matter if we agree or disagree) 😉

    • Samantha,

      I grew up just shy of Amish standards – traditional Midwest Holiness. I can only say, well said, and thanks for the personal wisdom well ahead of your years.

      Yes, the outward does represent the inward, but also according to the development of one’s personal spiritual life. Yes, modesty is timeless, but is also not a set-in-stone definitional rule except that, in all our ways we must be mindful to honor our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and not deter others from him. Women, you tempt a man just as easily by your suggestive behavior and sheer, yet technically modest, clothing as you do when “dressed” in a bikini. Are you encouraging him to draw closer to Christ, or are you wooing a man to think about you sexually through dress and behavior? Your true answer reveals the nature of your personal relationship with Christ.

      It is for this reason I adamantly reject an itemized modesty dress code, as is rampantly prevalent in today’s “conservative” church. This rule-based modesty dress code only encourages one to forego personal responsibility to God in favor of human-based behavior justification according to a manmade spiritual rule, not spiritual conviction based on the uniqueness of your personality. Spiritual justification by rules is a spiritual copout, encouraging one to follow a policy instead of the Holy Spirit’s personal instruction. Women, just because you wear a dress to ankle length while attempting to appease some rule – yet your skirt, by personal intent, is sexually suggestive in all the right places – do not automatically suppose you are modestly dressed. Just because you wear a rule-based acceptable blouse that covers all but your hands and upper neck, do not suppose that the sheer fabric is not tempting a man to lust after you. Rules do not, and cannot, excuse your heart’s intent. Man looks on the outside yet God looks on the heart. But, this is not to say that the outside exists independent of the heart, only that God looks at the initiating source of outward manifestation as primary,not secondary.

      Is physical modesty necessary? Yes, and it is scripturally mandated. Is physical modesty defined by a one size fits all, human-defined, cross-cultural, time-independent dress code? No, it is not. Why? Because submitting to the Holy Spirit’s personal prompting on all matters of physical modesty, as unique only to you (not someone else, including a governing church body), requires your personal unswerving devotion and submission to his instruction. Without which, you necessarily cannot initiate, much less maintain and grow, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

  4. I’ve been reading Paul’s letters in my morning devotions recently, and he says a great deal about this, starting in Romans and going all the way up to where I am now, in Colossians. It’s been in each letter, though sometimes Paul gives it more space and others less). Would suggest reading those letters – and doing it in several versions, to fully see what he says. Actually think both you and Samantha will find Paul agrees with some of your views, and differs with others. God bless you both.

  5. For those who think that rules chase kids away, it should be noted that the strictest rule-based religious community I know of (the Amish) also happen to have the highest retention rate for children that I’ve ever heard of (80%). Community-based control works.

  6. Having grown up in a legalistic home, and gone wayward, these topics tend to frustrate me because people who do not become prodigals just cant understand some things. So, I am going to leave any comments regarding the specifics of your blog alone because I think that “both” of you have some valid points and arguments.

    I do want to say this…

    We can talk about rules all day long. Thats great. Honestly though, “rules” are really a non-essential in the Christian faith. Think about it! If you are a true believer then your life is not about FOLLOWING rules and standards. What people have made to be rules and standards should be the OUTCOME of your lifestyle. This is what is so frustrating about the western Christian world. We see Christianity as a religion, not a lifestyle. People who are “legalistic” have a religion rule book they have to follow. That does NOT come naturally. If you wanted to call yourself a hippy you wouldnt follow a rule book would you? No, you would BE a hippy…its a lifestyle, and comes naturally.

    We are called to be LIVING sacrifices, not legalistic rule readers. If you are alive in Christ you will be a NEW creation and the OLD will PASS AWAY and not even appeal! So if it shouldnt be an appeal to you, then why would you need a rule against it? Rules are made to be broken, a lifestyle meant to be lived to the fullest. Paul say that that ALL things are lawful for me, but NOT profitable. Freedom of choice.

    Anyway that is my soapbox. 🙂

    • Dave,

      | If you are a true believer then your life is not about FOLLOWING rules and standards. What people have made to be rules and standards should be the OUTCOME of your lifestyle. |

      Absolutely. Well said!

  7. With the statement: “It doesn’t work” there is a lot of truth because rules tend not to. Really what must happen is they must not take on the rules but the reason for the rules. I’m kinda with Dave on this one, Christianity is a lifestyle, it is who you are, not what you do. The “rules” come naturally when you are submitted to the Lordship of Christ. The problem is not with the rules it’s with the false “gospel” that they take in and attach the rules to that is supposed to make them a Christian.

    If the radical work of regeneration is accomplished there will be a difference in their life that some may call “legalistic”. These things are generated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and it is God’s work from start to finish.

    “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” – Phillippians 1:6

    That’s my take anyway.

  8. Looking at my last comment, don’t get me wrong, rules are important, and I believe emphatically that rules should be placed, but I mean don’t let rules take the place of the Gospel…that’s the only thing that will really make a difference. Rules can be borrowed – a so great salvation that produces holiness in the heart and life cannot be borrowed, only bestowed by God.

  9. All I have to say is this: there’s a difference between morals and made up rules. My point is that often times things are taken out of context or to the extreme – and that’s what drives people away. Christ wasn’t an extremist. He was real. All lot of so-called religious leaders aren’t.

  10. I love the aspect of royalty in being a Christian. I am a child of THE KING, and I want my life to reflect the respect, awe, wonder, and praise that I have for Him. He deserves my best, my life, a living sacrifice (Rom 12:2). The least I can do for my King, is give my life to honour and obey the instruction He’s given me in His Word. I’m not sure why we have this idea that rules hurt a Christian??? God gave us rules to protect us from our deceitful and wicked hearts. He knows our human weakness and tendency to wander, so He gave us commandments to help us stay close to Him. It’s all for out good, and ultimately leads to us living a blessed life.

  11. Personally, rules without relationships are dead. Paul elaborated on this throughout his writings, as well as James in his book. True faith (“relationship”) will always produce works. “Faith without works is dead.”

    On the converse, however, works without faith is most certainly dead. This is demonstrated by the “many…have become very liberal in the ways we were taught to believe in, or have given up completely on the idea of religion, and possibly God”

    I believe that a real problem is a movement that focuses on the outward conformity rather than the inward transformation of the heart through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Let your works manifest your true inward transformed heart. Let us not be as the pharisees, which are pretty on the inside, but full of dead men’s bones.

  12. My deans wife used to say this and I thought of it while recalling this post this morning…

    “Rules without Reason result in Rebellion”

  13. Heather,

    Rules without reason cause rebellion. Rules with reason are rebelled against only by those who hate rules.

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