Drawing by Tabitha Jeub
A couple weeks ago, Wendy and I were taken out to eat by some new friends. “We’ve been following your blog for some time now,” they said. “It seems like you’re saying, ‘We tried that legalism crap and had enough of it.'” That’s a fair assessment of our standing on religion, I suppose. This and the next post explains it a little deeper.
Here is something worth getting angry over: legalism. Does that come as a surprise to you? Wendy and I are in love with Jesus, how God is working in our lives (and he is!), we read the Bible daily, attend church regularly, have family devotions, etc.
At the risk of alienating our legalistic friends, let me say this: The Jeubs avoid legalism. We’re quite irritated by it. We love Jesus, no doubt, but we cringe at some who claim the same Lord yet cling to superficial works of the faith rather than His Love.
I think you know the type. Legalism is a twisted religion. I often call it “Phariseeism,” a reference to the Pharisees of old that Jesus grew so angry with. They weren’t the casual laymen of Jesus’ day. They were the religious leaders, arguably should have known better, who aspired to perfection rather than love. I know families who — instead of an aspiration to follow Christ — will aspire to perfection, as if it is possible. They may claim to be Christians, but their lives are anything but a resemblance of Jesus Christ.
It is ironic, really. While they think themselves religious and devout, they are arrogant and conceited. They boast of their behavior, not of their love. Love, in fact, is trivial, optional, a fuzzy feeling that comes and goes but is not paramount to Christianity. Proud. Holier than thou. They quote all sorts of verses about truth, the Law, dominion, head coverings, whatever. Rarely do pharisaical folks quote verses about love, even though these verses are claimed to be the most important commandments in Scripture.
One such scripture is one we quote often, “Blessed is the man who has his quiver full [of children]” (Psalm 127). It lends to allowing God have control of your fertility. We’re definitely in that camp. Our book Love Another Child drills down into that conviction. It’s a belief with a tremendous amount of Scriptural precedent. We love to speak of the beautiful blessing of children, the wholeness of God’s design of the family. Wendy and I are telling it to you straight: there is little more fulfilling than a house full of love, and children exemplify love.
But any household without love is a huge disappointment. Sometimes terror. The size of the family doesn’t matter much. Wendy and I see parents misunderstand our message, erringly wrapping it in religious bondage that somehow claims children as the answer — somehow the reward — of a life of faith.
There are several great works that are worth pursuing, and the big one we keep referring to is children. We’re just insisting that love is more important, and we’ll go so far as to say that a loving family of a couple kids is more important than an unloving family with a dozen. Love is the most important commandment. Period.
But the legalism argument raises the blood pressure of the legalists when, more often than not, they could use more love in their lives. A fellow large-family mom sent me pages and pages of reasons that this message (family, love, children, Jesus) was off target. In fact, sinful. To her, Wendy and I needed to spend more time talking about the evils of birth control. Love Another Child insists that your calling to “have another child” is a personal calling, that our emphasis on loving another child was somehow misleading and unscriptural. She prefaced her long letter, “I want to share with you the scriptures that contradict everything you are writing about, but I don’t want to enter a debate with you.”
In other words, here’s my opinion. I disagree with you. But don’t give me any reasons to believe otherwise. That’s a key flag of a religious Pharisee: I’m right, you’re wrong, and I don’t want to talk any more about it.
And to think her argument was about children. Have them, but loving them is trivial. I can’t tell you how hideous such a worldview can be. If you follow this woman’s reasoning, your life will be filled with turmoil. This woman’s house is extremely religious, but her home is not a loving home. How unfortunate this is.
No, “unfortunate” isn’t strong enough. A home without love is more than just unfortunate. Oh well, the kids and parents hate each other, but good thing they’re being raised with good theology. Legalism is evil. Parents who hate one another, siblings who constantly fight, every day self-centeredness and misery — oh my, such a life is really no life at all. Certainly not a life God intended it to be. It is an evil undermining of the beautiful blessing a family is meant to be. The blessing of life, the sharing of growing love, stomped out by a legalistic parent who thinks of love as window dressing far down the list of more important behaviors.
See, Wendy and I believe God is calling couples — particularly Christian couples — to love children, more children. That’s been our experience. When we respond to the conviction to Love Another Child, we are more and more convinced at what a blessing children are — the exact opposite of what the world dishes out. That conviction was felt early on by us and is shared by millions of others. What a blessing it has been, why would anyone not want to share in it?
So much to say on this topic! I’m telling you, there is depth in this message. A family who is free from the weight of legalism has a beautiful life ahead of them. My, oh, my, how great life can be in a family where love abounds.
And my, oh, my, how this sends the legalists into a frenzy! I’m going to post more about this next time. For now, let Wendy and I know what you think.