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The Subtle World of Christian Legalism

The Charismatic Movement of the 1970s and 1980s, while bringing in true praise and worship, became hopelessly bogged down in a shadowy world of legalism that paraded as obedience to God. It was actually a bondage to men and their Biblical opinions.

The Holy Spirit is the leader of the Church

The purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the freeing of believers to know Jesus better and live a life more in keeping with His Kingdom. But all movements trying to move themselves forward may fall into error. The first of these was the Shepherding Movement which promoted human leadership way beyond reason. After all,  denominations have monkeyed with organizational change and structure only to end up where they are now – losing membership and closing churches, occasionally by bankruptcy.

Over emphasis on the top guy in charge

The book of Revelation warns against the sin of the Nicolaitans, that of elevating leadership above the individual believer. The New Testament Church circa years 100-300 C.E. had everyone at fundamentally one level, with only those with an anointing, training or official duties standing out. They are not intended to be super stars, or, as it has turned out, media stars. That ilk has not entirely gone away, but the effectiveness of their churches may be waning too.

Another problem was the general misapplication of God’s hopes and promises to the level of Law. Three of these are especially onerous. The Bible states clearly that God hates divorce, but it became so much of a law that even a divorce that God Himself would sanction could not be legalized because the partners feared the wrath of the church community. What God has joined together is scriptural. This means that men may enter into a legal divorce and God not recognize it because He did not sanction it.

But the reverse is also true. God has not required a continuation of some marriages that people hold together at any cost and against His will. One partner might go to his or her pastor and be told to submit to the husband, or to the husband, go back and love your wife, when God had no intention of keeping this marriage together.  Children who were being abused stayed when they clearly needed to go to the police; women sometimes submitted to smarmy sexual activities as an act of submission, such as group sex, all heinous in God’s sight. Allowing the continuation of evil is never in God’s best interests. If someone will not submit to God, He will free one or more of the family members.

Euthanasia- you can expect this to be an issue

An acquaintance of mine had the unfortunate experience of tending to prolonged life of some family members, causing family friction, exhaustion of body and resources, and making the final years of life a strain rather than allowing an old person to die in peace. Church “legalism” – to keep some one alive at all costs, may not be the smartest move, esp. if it is all done with machinery. This is the devil’s way to deplete the last peace from the family. The Old Testament patriarchs folded up their robes, took to their beds, and after some careful words of encouragement died without rancor.

Pro-life does not mean pro-turmoil. Neither does it mean a case for euthanasia which seems to be more a refusal to see the end of life from God’s viewpoint.

Obeying rules allows us to feel virtuous without being so

Virtually every false religion is strapped with rules. This is a sure sign something is wrong. A former congregation (Messianic) of mine asked me back, but in the meantime all the women were wearing head scarves. I said no, I did not want to think I was in church with Muslims. I don’t think until that point they ever considered how legalistic that looked. Muslims make the women cover themselves as a sign not of true submission but of control, and Sharia Law is the most controlling of them all. I worked and lived in China where communism controls life, and they are freer there than followers of Islam.

The tithe does not count if you are angry about it

Another area of Christian legalism is the tithe. Yes, God would like 10% but many poor cannot do that. The scripture says to provide for God from “your increase.” There are some poor folks who do not have a living wage and no increase either. Of course they can give time and energy to someone in need, and compassion counts too. One person I asked to pray for me said that she thought my prayers were not being answered because I was not paying a full 10%.  I happen to know her income is nearly twice mine; she buys meat, I cannot. She takes hot showers while in the summer I cannot afford to heat my water. She placed upon me a legal requirement without knowing my circumstances.

Critics about money may be envious

Another time I learned from a close friend that she had won $2200 at a casino. She and her husband do provide a full 10% to God and they are not gamblers, even occasional ones, but for their 25th wedding anniversary they went to the local casino. The winnings were sufficient to open a little art shop-studio downtown in a nice location, a life long dream. My legalistic friend was horrified – “Oh God would never use gambling money to provide a blessing?”

And why not? Does it not say the wealth of the wicked will flow to the righteous? Proverbs 13:22 Jacob made a wad out of cheatin’ Laban.

It is far too easy for believers to duck under the law rather than actually take a prayer request seriously. We should in all cases know the mind of Christ, not just for ourselves but also when asked to counsel others.

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Gay Marriage, Judeo-Christian Marriage and Contract vs. Covenant Marriage

Print Friendly and PDFThere are two types of marriage from a legal standpoint, by covenant and by contract.

Human marriages are by contract

All marriages these days are by contract. You sign a legal license to marry and are formally married either by a preacher/rabbi, or in a civil ceremony by a “member of the court,” such as a justice of the peace or a ship captain. A license and a contract are required because the government wants to know who is responsible for any children and property belonging to this union. That is the extent of the contract in marriage.

Covenant marriage places the responsibility on God

But Judeo-Christian tradition sees marriage as a covenant and instead of there being 2 people in this marriage contract, there is a third, God Himself. The vows are taken before God and He assumes a special part in the union. A covenant to God goes way beyond a contract. In fact salvation as a promise from God is the most sacred of all the covenants he has made with the human race. From God’s standpoint we can break a covenant but He cannot.

You and your spouse might break that covenant, but God will not. The couple promise not only fidelity to each other but to God, and to His demands on their life and witness, and their raising children in the faith.

Ministers are wise to refuse to marry

Perhaps that helps explain why some ministers will not perform some marriages. A minister is within his rights not to marry any couple he does not think will fulfill the union properly or are not serious about the Godly connection each of them has. Since the marriage covenant under God also includes raising the children in a Godly home, you can easily see why same-sex marriages are not allowed in most denominations or by most ministers. Natural children are an impossibility.

Individuals who divorce can break their contract, as recognized by the state, but not the covenant. When it says “What God has joined together Let no man put asunder” (Matt 19:6) it means, under covenant law. Humans might separate what God joined, but God is not required recognize their having done sos. The Law of God is greater than any law from the State of Nebraska, or any other jurisdiction for that matter. This should help explain why so many of the rules regarding marriage in the New Testament seem to militate against divorce.

Legal human divorce does not break a covenant marriage

Women will occasionally say, “He may have divorced me but I still feel married to him” and be telling the truth. From God’s standpoint that union may well still stand. A man can divorce if his wife commits adultery but if she did not and he marries, he becomes an adulterer and God cannot bless sin, which may explain why so many 2nd marriages fail.

Statistically 2nd marriages fail at a far greater rate than 1st marriages, as a tacit confirmation of this spiritual fact. And same-sex unions have a far greater statistic of divorce than other unions. Lawyers frequently support same sex marriage because they know they want added legal business! (Some day I’ll write on Too Many Lawyers.)

In the case above, is the rejected woman expected to remarry her husband? Absolutely not. Many women are more than happy to be rid of a philanderer; let the new wife put up with him. God has not called us to bondage says the scripture. In all cases He wants to be the person involved in your life decisions.

Any kind of interference is called adultery

Because marriage is a covenant relationship of 3 (he, she and God) no other human should either get in the way, or ever take sides. You can always take God’s side, but you may not know what His Side is. Marriage is intensely personal and outsiders, no matter how close to the situation, esp. children, cannot know what is going on. And God does not want us to take sides either. Parents who try to break up a marriage will face God’s judgment if only on the other side of the grave.

In fact to take sides is to be involved where you don’t belong. This covenant of 3 does not include you and nosy interference can get you quickly on God’s naughty list, esp. close friends, mothers-in-law and The Other Woman. Minding one’s own business is always good counsel.

If you are facing or have faced divorce, you can learn the mind of Christ in the Bible. He has made it clear we are not to focus on the past, or be depressed in the present, but always to look forward, and not be in bondage to failures of the past.

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