For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17 NLT
My brush with legalism came early in life.
Society wasn’t the only group trying to push their legalistic rules down my throat. Fellow church members and my parents joined in the effort. I didn’t have an issue with the rules found in the Bible. My issue was with the human manufactured ones.
Rules such as women shouldn’t wear pants. I couldn’t find that one in the Bible. The closest I could come was that a woman shouldn’t dress as a man. Or the rules that said a woman shouldn’t have short hair or wear jewelry or makeup. Dad’s favorite was that a man shouldn’t have long hair. Since I was coming of age during the hippie movement, this one affected me.
Rock music was off limits—even though the country music most of the Christians I knew listened to had lyrics far more graphic than the rock music. Lyrics about drinking, using drugs, sleeping around.
Such harsh views colored my view of God. He was a judgmental deity who sat in heaven waiting for me to mess up so He could, in turn, mess up my life. And if He didn’t respond quickly enough, Dad would be glad to step in for Him.
Legalism was around in the first century too. Though God had pronounced all food acceptable, some still proposed certain things shouldn’t be eaten and that Old Testament laws made null and void by Christ’s death should still be obeyed. Paul disagreed.
When I finally understood God’s grace, I realized grace had saved me—not my good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). The added rules weren’t in the Bible but were just people’s interpretations of certain passages. Or the verses had been taken out of context or the context completely ignored. Reading the gospels cleared matters up. No amount of rule obeying—God made or manmade—would save me. Only God’s grace could.
Rules implanted fear in me; grace removed the fear. Since I wasn’t accepted based on my obedience, I wouldn’t stay in God’s good graces by my obedience. Not that obedience wasn’t important. God’s complete forgiveness of my sins kept me safe in His care.
Straightening out a proper view of God and His grace ushered in victorious living—even though it took me numerous years to grasp this concept. Legalism zaps the joy from life. Grace infuses life with happiness and peace. Try grasping grace.
Tweetable: Have you grasped God's grace?
Prayer: Father, thank You for the grace You’ve shown us in Jesus Christ. Help us grasp the full import of what Your grace means.