Monday, January 26, 2009

Legalism, Abusing Grace and living in between the two.

I read this quote on a different blog the other day...
“People do not drift towards holiness.
Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate towards godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, or delight in the Lord.
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance;
Toward disobedience and we call it freedom;
Toward superstition and call it faith.
We cherish the non-discipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation;
We slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism;
We slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

It was written by DA Carson (who, as far as I know, could be some freak show Christian, but I think that the quote was thought provoking none-the-less. )

I have been pondering the concepts of legalism and living in grace often. It seems much easier to be a legalist. I know if I had my way, I would probably just fall into that line of thinking, because then I would be able to continue on my frustrating attempt to be perfect, all while ignoring the idea of living by the Spirit. Or perhaps I could be one of those "truly free" people and ignore discipline, others and my own conscience while satisfying all my fleshy desires to live life to the fullest. Where is the balance?

I desire to live somewhere in between these two extremes. I try to be cautious of my freedom in Christ because of others whom I care about. I am free to listen, watch, eat, drink, do whatever I want (within reason and all things being legal) , but it is my choice to refrain from certain things that could cause my fellow Christian to stumble. Often I think because Norse and I choose to refrain from much, we are seen as legalistic. I hope not.

Usually, we refrain because of our past, or because we are in a leadership position, or because we have seen the destructiveness of things in others lives. Often the people who I feel are abusing grace are ones who grew up in solid Christian homes. I wonder if they had ever seen the destructiveness of certain things, perhaps they also would choose to refrain. My biggest peeve (and certainly always a hot button) is the issue of christian 20 somethings and social drinking. I think that I am tainted because I know it is possible for people to drink alcohol responsibly, in moderation, and without any misconduct, but instead I have seen these christian young adults only abuse that freedom. Instead of going out for a beer it is basically the "legal" version of the high school keggers I attended in my teens. It is almost humorous to think about were it not so prevalent. Maybe it is the "sowing wild oats" phase that most of us heathens got out when we were rebellious teens, but since good christian kids could never get away with it, they wait until they are legal and then make idiots of themselves. Could someone explain this phenomena to me? If you are a 20 something that drinks responsibly, please comment, so i know you exist :).

Moving on (in an attempt to avoid hate mail), how do you find the balance between laughing at sitcoms, but not participating in "silly talk or coarse jesting"(Eph 5:4). How do you live in a way that leaves you guilt free, but not so out of touch with reality that you can't reach the world for Christ with an authentic relationship with Jesus? How do you confront a friend who is abusing grace and destroying part of her relationship with the Lord, without coming across as "judgmental"? How do you live in the freedom of Christ, while not letting your actions dishonor His name?


  1. aye aye aye... that's a good post. i have to be fairly vague again in this "public" forum...for sake of "exposing" those who may not want to be exposed (following me?) anyway, i have thought of this very topic myself. i, too, was one that didn't do it a LOT...but did get enough of it out of my system when i was younger, therefore now it has no appeal to me. literally. i got married at a later age than most i know (or most in my family) and those i knew who had gotten married & had kids at a young age (before 21) are now (late 20's,early 30's) living "that life" that the rest of us did when we were younger. and these people have spouses and young kids. i've even tried joining it at my age now, and it does not have the same appeal. i have no desire to do that. my husband & i have decided not to drink, socially or at home, simply because of his family history...and we want to start setting a good example for our child/household...because that's right for us. may not be for everyone else. we are far from legalistic but we are beginning to really see what the "danger zones" are, traps, and temptations in our own lives, therefore we have been working to avoid. I think it's possible to live in between legalism and "abusing grace"... I think it's possible by trying to notice the things in your own lives that are "trigger points", struggles, temptations, traps, anything that you honestly would know would be something that could make you or someone around you stumble - and as you figure each one out, those are the points you avoid doing. I don't think we need to be legalistic, but open and aware of the Holy Spirit's guiding in your life - what He wants filtered out, etc. Sounds easier than it is, but it is freeing...and there WILL be things that He may want you to be "legalistic" about (i.e. drinking). Not sure if this makes sense...but just some thoughts again : ) thanks for another thought provoking post!

  2. I can say that I had my year of not making the greatest decisions when it came to how much to drink. But I got over that very quickly, because I realized that it was stupid and it was not pleasing to God.

    I do have a drink every now and then but never over the moderation level :-) Besides it makes you feel horrible the next day anyway!

  3. Anonymous3:17 PM

    Good thoughts/questions Jesica. I'm grappling with a lot of those same questions right now. Wish we could chat. BTW I am one SAHM who loves reading your blog, even if you never see signs of me having been here =) -Ashley Goushian


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