June 27, 2011 by Stacy McDonald
An Expose’ of the Legalistic Anti-Legalist:
While *true* legalism is a real issue, these days, anyone with any sort of convictions may be accused of legalism. How can an “anti-legalist” actually be a true legalist in disguise and how do they choose who goes on their hit list? Here’s my take:
Sally used to be a legalist. After being enamored with a particular teacher/preacher (whatever!), she decided she wanted to be just like them. She assumed that in emulating their outward appearance and lifestyle she would become a godlier wife and mother. In the process, she began to look down on anyone who didn’t live or look exactly like her. She judged the convictions and motives of everyone she knew.
Sally took the outward expressions of someone else’s real faith and turned it into an absolute “rule for all of life.” She walked in the shoes of someone else’s convictions and then complained when they didn’t fit. If she saw a woman in pants and short hair, she decided she must be a feminist. If someone didn’t homeschool, they weren’t as “godly” as she was. If she saw someone with one or two children, she assumed they used birth control and weren’t truly thankful for their children (like she was). She became the judge, jury, and sometimes mental executioner of everyone around her.
She focused heavily on what “others” were or weren’t doing, and rarely considered her own sinful heart. She was going through the motions of someone else’s convictions, but had no idea why she was doing it – other than to be thought of by others (and herself) as “godly.” In a way, she wanted to be “part of the crowd” and a certain lifestyle seemed to be the secret handshake.
What Sally didn’t realize was that many of the people she was trying to emulate had no idea these things were going on in her head. Finally, after wearing herself out trying to live a formulaic lifestyle that reflected “someone else’s” convictions (not her own) she gave up.
Now she claims to be “set free” from her legalism and hunts for other “legalists,” so that she can self-righteously point out their sin (under the guise of warning others about legalism).
What Sally doesn’t realize is that she has superimposed her own past sins onto friends and strangers; and now she legalistically judges and condemns (publicly) anyone who, in her opinion, appears to live the way she used to live or “looks” the way she used to look. She has become legalistic in her anti-legalism and piously persecutes other Christians. The same sin she was guilty of before has simply changed shapes.
Pray for Sally, and those like her, that God would convict her heart, free her of legalism, and teach her to stop tearing down and dividing the church.
“The person who understands the evil in his own heart is the only person who is useful, fruitful, and solid in his beliefs and obedience. Others only delude themselves and thus upset families, churches, and all other relationships. In their self-pride and judgment of others, they show great inconsistency.” – John Owen