This is a follow-up from Children and Legalism – Part 1
Not sure if you noticed the title change I made in Part 1. The original title of this series was titled “Trolling on Legalism,” but when I woke Saturday morning and re-read the article, I was convinced there was a glaring problem with the title. Hostile critics of large families (the trolls) are, for the most part, in agreement with this message. They are stronger cheerleaders than some Christians.
I wish Christian communities spent more time focusing on the problem of legalism. Those who know us well – our very close friends and family – know that we avoid the overly religious Pharisee. Our distaste with legalism stems back quite a few years, but we have traditionally kept mum about it. We drop hints now and then about freedom in Christ (I so wish everyone knew Him!), but we haven’t been quite this blunt about it.
Why are we not too vocal about Phariseeism? Because so many are deeply wrapped up in it. Some are friends whom we love. It’s like addiction. Who really wants to point out the relative’s addiction? You may love your uncle/parent/sibling/etc. to death, but no one in the family is volunteering to tell him he has a drinking problem. An intervention is one of the most miserable – though sometimes necessary – actions in life.
What keeps a legalist from the freedom of Christ? Sometimes it’s shame. They’d feel guilty if they questioned the unbiblical nuances of their Christian circles. They’d think they’re rebelling if they question why their spiritual leaders never speak on love. Perhaps they’d be called into questioning, cast from the flock, or kept from positions of leadership because of their radical ideas on love. If you want to light a fire of judgment under a religious Pharisee, start talking about love as the most important commandment. They often grow irritated, start questioning you as if you’re Lenny Kravitz out to peddle drugs to their children.
I always encourage questioning. Maybe this is why I love debate so much. Question why your favorite publications or books or curriculum push legalistic to-do lists rather than the love of Jesus Christ and the redemption of mankind. Go ahead. Test yourself. Scan the books on your bookshelf. Any of them with “love” in the title? (Ours don’t count.) It’s sad, but I’ve been in church bookstores unable to find even one.
Sorry if this sounds like I’m berating religious communities, but I don’t want you to miss the point. This is big, it changes everything. It can save your family! Look, Jesus Christ gave us the answer to life. When asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” he didn’t give us the myriad list of Hebrew law. He didn’t even try to narrow it down to the top 10 (Moses did that already). His answer was, “Love God, love others” (Matthew 22:36-40). So simple, and so ignored by religious leaders ever since.
It’s almost as if legalistic folks honestly think Jesus was being facetious, hiding the real answer to a life worth living. The real answer is listed in their “What We Believe” page on their website. Many churches mention nothing of love. Do a ctrl-F and search for the word. They have no more than a couple references, and pretty weak references at that. I believe that’s treacherous to Christianity.
I may be losing some of you. You’re in deep to this legalism stuff. So, I’m really diving in to offer you some hope. First, the splash…
Legalists Are Worse Than Trolls
I mentioned in Part 1 that legalism was evil. Just calling it “unfortunate” wasn’t strong enough. We just should not tolerate this garbage. There is a binding evil in the life of religious bondage that is incredibly disturbing, as if Satan is using religion as a tool for ultimate slavery.
Satan will gladly lure a family into sin, but to really get them enslaved, he’ll use religion.
Honestly, it would be foolish to think Satan used only the world to build his arguments. He also has legalism at his disposal. The trolls are in the world, and because they’re wrapped up in hate and anger, they’re easy to pinpoint. I wish they weren’t so angry; I wish they could see the freedom in Christ that is readily available to them. But, that’s where they’re at. I feel sorry for them, really. Their anger is really anguish — pain, doubt, delusion. Behind their vitriol are broken hearts, family dysfunction, or unanswered questions.
On the other hand, the religious can quote the exact same verses as us, yet are worse. What a crafty deception! They work to steal the blessing of love from the very people who are called to have children. If their idea of quiverful is the legalistic, hate-centered religion they espouse, the Jeubs want nothing of it.
Wendy and I have spent hours talking with couples who confuse this issue. I recall a friend (and he was a good friend, too!) grow angry with me for my insistance that his church — one of those churches with no references to love in anything they espoused — was wayward because of its lack of love. I wasn’t being rude; he came to me asking me why I didn’t attend. I remember laughing at his arguments, sort of like a parent bursting out a chuckle or two when a teenager rolls out reasons why sinful behavior should be excused. He actually tried to tell me that love was just a feeling, trivial, an emotion that spiritual people should overcome. It’s ridiculous to argue that love (for crying out loud, how can anyone be against love?) can be such an inhibitor to the growth of a Christian’s faith.
Legalists sometimes think too much love will tear down the foundation of the church. Love won’t tear down Christ’s church, but it will certainly shake the foundations of legalistic bondage. We’re out to build up the church – as best as we possibly can – through love. Any other foundation is faulty. If a church is built on legalism and works, well then, I guess we are out to tear it down. A church that boasts of anything but has no love is a building with no love, no Jesus.
Like the popular bumper sticker reads: “Know Love, Know Jesus. No love, No Jesus.”
My, I wish my overly religious friends would read the Bible without their legalistic lenses. They would see Jesus growing more angry with the religious than with the trolls. If they, like my friend, would honestly accept love as the most important commandment, they would discover the greatest joy in the universe, and their lives would be transformed.
Let Scripture Breathe
Let’s wrap this message up with Scripture. The love in Scripture should breathe through your life, into your family, and into the world.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
My biggest regrets in life have to do with forgetting the paramount truth of love. Can’t every parent relate? If you are honest with yourself, you’ll recognize it in your own life, too. I cannot be more adement. Set your focus on Love in the House. Anything else amounts to nothing.