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Thursday, May 23rd 2013

12:23 AM

Confessions of a Recovering Legalist

Fresh out of college, I had all the answers. I was a rules person and applied them to everyone I knew. Maybe it was a part of my personality, but rules provided a safety net. I knew what was expected of me and how I should perform. They helped me to know if I measured up in life. A problem with rules arises when society’s norm keeps changing. Rules are not flexible and our shortcomings become more pronounced; the need for grace surfaces.

While my husband was in seminary, I thought it would be good to volunteer with our church youth group to prepare for our own launch into youth ministry. I don’t remember any positive impact on a young person’s life, but I do recall my conflict with keeping the rules in order. Can anyone else relate to being conflicted? The Pharisees could! Jesus called them out for…

  • Standards that break the back. Matthew 23:4
  • Stand-offish, judgmental attitudes. Matthew 7:1-5
  • Lack of empathy for another’s circumstances. Matthew 9:10-13
  • Life by the rules. Matthew 15:9
  • Self-righteous values. Matthew 18:30
  • Self-appointed roles as “Law Guardians.” Matthew 23:2

I’ve learned the hard way that compassion is something we all need. We run into crises that cannot be solved by regulations and our world tilts on its axis. Those humbling times have brought me to my knees as I sought the One who could change my heart of stone into a heart of unconditional love. “Lord,” I prayed, “It is not in me to love others. Please love through me.”

What is the kind of love that God honors? Matthew 18:3 compares it to a child’s love:  wholehearted, no grudges, trusting, adoring.

When I understand that rules are guidelines for my protection, then I can be more benevolent in how they are applied. Still a work in progress, I am learning that love is the goal of God’s commands.  1 Timothy 1:5 calls it a love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. It all comes back to love that has been dispensed by grace.





Related Posts:

Talking to God 

Proclaim the Message 

When Forgiveness is Hard 

Confessions of a Recovering Legalist
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