Children and Legalism – Part 2

The Bible on LoveThis 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.

About Chris Jeub

Chris is the father of 16 children, busily running the family businesses and learning the depths of love along the way.

  • Sheila

    Hi Chris,
                  These posts have been so interesting and have prompted some good discussion. I absolutely agree that Satan does use religion and legalism to enslave families. This is obvious by the sheer number of factions in the Christian church. If people followed Christ’s commands to love God and to love others instead of making long lists of extra rules more of them would truly find freedom in Him.
                     I am sure that leaders of some of the groups mentioned in these posts did set out with the best of intentions but became enslaved by setting themselves up as spiritual leaders and, in some cases, almost being worshipped by their followers.
                      I believe that if we pray for our spiritual eyes and ears to be opened then God will enable us to understand His word when we read it for ourselves rather than relying on mere men to tell us what it all means.
                     Legalism can rob families of so much enjoyment with their children if they are trying constantly to attain perfection by following so many rules and children will always feel as if they are not good enough. The truth is that none of us are good enough through our own efforts but only through the blood of Jesus are we made good enough.
                      I hope these posts have been helpful to families wrapped up in this type of bondage as this needs to be talked about . I have found it so useful because by focussing on love it means we can filter out what are so called ” Jesus + ” rules and what are biblical commandments intended for our good.
                                    Thanks Chris!

  • Rob

    Maybe your friend didn’t like being laughed at. Maybe he didn’t feel that was very loving.

  • Maya

    “I cannot be more adement.”

    I think what you want to be is “adamant.”

  • T. Gates

    Scary, but I think that a lot of people are fooled into thinking that legalism is going to save them and send them to heaven.  The Bible says that if you do not have love for others you do not know Christ as your Savior; that is one of the evidences of a Christian!  SAD, SAD, SAD that so many are fooled!

  • Guest

    You may consider this trolling, you may even delete this and ban me, butI  just wanted to post this as I do not know what to make of these posts.

    We have chosen to limit our children, send them to public school and go to a main stream church. We have been told by quiverful people that our choices are wrong. These families are mostly skirt wearing, head covering, homeschooling, home churching, courstship believing  and business owning. But neither I nor they have ever doubted that we loved our children and families. Our choices were just different. I never considered them legalistic though. Many people would consider them legalistic though.

    You are a homeschooling, home churching, business owning family. You are not skirts only and do not head cover. I do not know if you believe in courtship only. Many people would consider you choices legalistic. Then how is it you are pointing the legalism finger at other families ? Does not being in ATI absolve you of that ? Is it because you think your family has more love than the average large family. I am confused.

  • Manyhandsmusic

    Maybe you could clarify what you mean by Legalism? Do you mean that they place “doing  things and looking a certain way” above God’s 2nd commandment?

    I think people DO associate homeschooling, no rock beat to music, large families, and dresses only, and head coverings as LEGALISM.

    When you (Chris) say that people fail to show love, you are NOT saying that they should not confront a BELIEVER in sin, right?

    • guest

      I do believe dresses only, no dancing to music and possibly head covering are legalistic.  Large families and possibly head coverings are a choice.  it’s when Christians INSIST that you MUST no dance to music, only dress in dresses in skirts to be modest, and you are not in submission if you don’t cover. 

  • Tryhmn

    Just discovered your blog via a link from a friend. I heard a radio interview several years ago with a guest speaker (Dr. Dobson, I think?), he said something that has stuck with me … Most mistakes in parenting will be offset by a mother and father that truly love each other. I believe one can take it one step further and say that most mistakes in life can be offset by following the 2 most important commands. My understanding of the scriptures is that we are commanded to love God and our fellow human beings, commanded to, not optional or conditional. Also that Love is an action word. Is it possible that the actions and attitudes of others that sometimes get labeled as “legalism” are really motivated by love or a desire to love? Or that we may use “legalism” as an excuse not to follow God’s commands of loving and all that follows as a result of that love.

  • Tryhmn

    Had to add more … ATI … Many of our friends use ATI and all have exceptional families. I am continually amazed at the spiritual maturity of their children. I dont think Bill Gothard has ever advocated the canonization of the ATI materials, they are meant to help with understanding not be or replace scripture. Many children … If children are viewed as eternal souls and not temporary liabilities, can a man have the wisdom to say whether another eternal soul should be brought into the world? I can not speak for other men but I do not. My children are both the blessing of God and natural result of loving my wife. Enjoy reading your blog.

  • Amy

    Love these posts on this!!! SOOOO TRUE! Thank you!

  • Amy Woolley Pederson

    I was waiting to comment until after you finished this series on legalism.  I’m assuming now that you have, but I was hoping for at least a part 3 as there are so many questions left unanswered. 

    Please help me clarify a few things, if you would.  After reading through part 1 and 2 several times I am still unable to understand what your definition of legalism is.  Believing as you do that each family is convicted of the Lord at different times of different things, it would be hard to label any particular adherence to a conviction as legalism.  There are also basic rules (sorry, no other word worked here) that we as Christians teach our children (such as do not hit, do not steal, do not lie) so having rules in and of itself does not make one a legalist. 

    Is it more the attitude behind the things they do that make some legalistic?  Not knowing the heart, as only Christ can, we must be careful in our labeling of other Christians.  What might look like something holy or lovely on the outside may very well be a white-washed tomb.  I think that applies to both those who appear to follow rules and have no love, as to
    those who appear to love and not follow rules.  The only “fly on the wall” that knows the truth of what goes on behind closed doors is Christ.  That being said, there is nothing wrong with making generalizations to aid in making a point. 

    After my first reading of your posts, my initial thought was that your posts were very specifically responding to situations that have happened in your life.  Not being privy the details of those situations makes it hard for the general reader to fully grasp what you are writing against.  I for one, would have an easier time if you gave actual scenarios (whether real or hypothetical) highlighting how one response is loving and one is legalistic. 

    I fear my post will be misunderstood as you cannot hear the tone of my voice or see the expressions on my face or see my body language as I ask these questions.  I am most sincere as I ask for clarification, not judging or trolling or being argumentative.  I realize that some of my sentences or paragraphs may seem disjointed, but my thoughts are disjointed and scattered.  Hopefully you can make sense of what I’m trying to say and the questions I am trying to ask.  Many hours have been spent in deep thought contemplating both posts and I simply could not reconcile several things. 

    • Chris Jeub

      Don’t worry about being misunderstood, Amy. We know you well enough to know you are asking good questions! I tell you-me, this is one heavy subject, and Wendy and I took a long time rolling it around before publishing. 

      Here are some of my thoughts. I’ll ask Wendy to chime in if she has the time.

      (1) Is it all attitude? I’m not so sure. Paul’s reprimand of the Galatians, Jesus’ reprimand of the Pharisees, and John’s beautiful letters on love all take legalists seriously. It seems like there is more than just a misdirected attitude. 

      (2) I, too, am hesitant to start being specific. It’d turn me into a legalist, pointing out all that is legalistic in the lives of others. That’d certainly be a double bind.

      (3) There are things Wendy and I choose to do that can be perceived as legalistic, but we do so for really good reasons. Homeschooling, for instance.

      (4) As for certainty over rules and regulations, I guess we’re saying you can’t be certain. If we can’t hang our hat on the law, what can we? Love.

      We keep returning to that last one. Love, love, love. While all the other laws can be excused, we can’t miss the mark on love.

      • Amy Woolley Pederson

        I think we agree and I appreciate your response.  We would love to share experiences and stories with you and Wendy sometime.