So much for updating a couple times every week.
I've been mulling this one over for quite a while. Where do we, those of us who are Christians, draw the line between holiness and legalism?
Last fall I attended fall convention at the bible college/school I went to in the early 90's. Their conventions are always interesting; four days of good preaching, seeing old friends and making some new ones. This one was no exception, I am glad I went.
The message one night centered around the idea that when some one comes back to the Lord, or just comes to the Lord, that we seem to feel the need to put extra requirements on their repentance. Sure, Bob said he was sorry and asked for forgiveness and has turned his back on his old sin, but we want more. Bob needs to work scrubbing toilets for awhile. Or sit in the back of the sanctuary during services or some other payment for his debt or "proof" of his repentance. It was a good sermon and touched a nerve with me on several levels.
Immediately after the service, I went with the crowd for the offered refreshments and to see who I could see. I ran into a very attractive young woman who I knew from my time living in the area. We started talking, catching up on friends that one of us had heard from and the other hadn't. I told her that a number of people we knew could be found on MySpace. She gave me "that" look; the disapproving one that some Christians seem to get.
"Yeah, I know.", I told her, "But there are some good committed Christians on there too."
I understood the initial response. Anybody who has browsed through MySpace understands. There are a lot of girls in skimpy clothing taking pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror..and guys too. Interspersed in between these are people who are just using it to keep up with their friends, have a blog or just have some space of their own on the web. I found my chruch from a blog on MySpace, but that's a whole other story. It was her next comment that floored me.
"I don't think good Christians should be on MySpace."
I felt like asking why. There is smut on TV, yet very few would say that there shouldn't be Christians on TV. Radio is every bit as raunchy as MySpace, but if you shut down the local Christian radio station the out cry would be tremendous. People use cell phones to surf for porn, so no Christian should have one. Books and magazines contain filth but I hear no one calling for an end to Christian writing. Those that do preach such things are generally, and rightfully, considered nuts.
I wanted to ask her if she had been paying attention during the service. After listening to and probably "amening" the sermon about not putting extra requirements on repentance/salvation, she could sit there and in all earnestness, say that a person's salvation should be judged by their participation on MySpace. Why? Because she had taken the idea of holiness and crossed it over into legalism.
Is God, through his Holy Spirit, telling you not to go on MySpace? That is holiness. Questioning my walk with Jesus because I do go on MySpace...that's legalism. Don't drink because you feel God doesn't want you to? Holiness. Criticize Joe because he has wine with dinner or a beer every so often with the guys? Legalism. Dress up in a suit and tie for every service because you want to please God? Holiness. Won't go to church unless you're dressed up or you look down at somebody who isn't dressed up? Legalism.
The Bible speaks very clearly that God will write His law on our hearts. He is looking for people who will follow his voice, follow his law, not because they HAVE to but because they WANT to. When we look down on people who aren't dressing like we think they should, are listening to music we don't like, go places we don't feel free to go to, we are making a new law. The church places an extra burden on the believer. Sure, you believed and repented, but that's not enough. Never touch alcohol again. Don't listen to that sort of music. Don't go to eat at a bar. Don't associate with THOSE people. If you do these things, you must not be right with God, poor soul.
In the end, I think holiness is like a back brace. It supports you. It keeps you from injury. It helps you do more work. Holiness we do willingly out of love for the Lord.
Legalism is harder to define. It's like the back brace put on too tight; you can't breathe, it causes pain and may eventually be dangerous. But it is the same back brace, just used incorrectly.
Finally, any time we judge someone, or make them feel less accepted, because they are not walking the walk like we are or think they should, THAT's legalism. It's too bad to, because she really is beautiful.