Freedom from Legalism

I always worry when I write about legalism. It’s like writing about humility – the minute you think you’ve got it, it’s gone.

But I feel the need because it’s just so easy to slip into a legalistic attitude. I know, because I fight that battle daily.

Image result for to do list


So what is legalism? Most simply put, it’s “pursuing good works with the intention of earning God’s favor.” Few Christians would say we believe that – obviously, we know the Bible says salvation is by grace through faith. But practically, it just “feels” like we should have to do more.

I, personally, like “checklists”. Right now, I have a long electronic Post-It note on my computer with a list of papers I need to grade, emails I need to send, people I need to contact. I love deleting each task as it’s completed. I feel so accomplished!!

But when that attitude worms its way into my Christian life, I’m in trouble. When reading my Bible, praying,  and going to church becomes a “checklist”, I am moving into legalism. When I feel like checking those “boxes” earns me ‘points’ with God, I am fully immersed in legalism. Once there, it’s an easy jump to look at others and judge them – they aren’t reading the “right” version of the Bible, they aren’t praying in the “right” way, not going to the “right” church. They, in short, aren’t serving God “my” way, so they are wrong.

What’s the cure for this? Jesus. Image result for jesus love me


Jesus didn’t come to bring us a “To-Do” list. The Old Testament believers tried that for  a couple thousand years. It didn’t work. Trying to earn salvation is like trying to dig a hole to get to the moon: with every move, we just get farther from our goal.

Jesus came to offer us the GIFT of salvation because He loves us. He loves us!! I sing and say that so much that I sometimes forget the amazing truth of it. Jesus loves ME!!

So the cure for trying to earn God’s favor is to accept God’s favor. And, once we accept it, we can love others because Jesus loves us. We can forgive others because Jesus forgives us. We can accept faults in others because Jesus accepts us, faults and all. Reading and praying and attending church isn’t a means to earn the favor of God, but a way to rejoice in the fact that we have it.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Gal. 5:1

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