When legalism masquerades as holiness we run into all sorts of ugliness.
A while ago Scot McKnight wrote an excellent series on how the Pharisees had built ‘fences’ around the law (ie created their own rules) to prevent people from even getting close to transgressing, but in the process they created bondage and a system that actually abused people.
So when Jesus says this “How terrible also for you teachers of the Law! You put onto people’s backs loads which are hard to carry, but you yourselves will not stretch out a finger to help them carry those loads. (Luke 11:46) he is not referring to God’s law but to the rules created by them to allow them to stay in control.
Scot goes on to write:
Jesus’ harshest demands were reserved for Pharisees who had learned to construct fences around the Torah and who rendered judgment on others by those fences. They thought their fences were protecting people from breaking Torah; Jesus thought their fences were (1) boundary marking and (2) preventing people from living in the freedom of God and (3) a failure to trust the sufficiency of Torah/Bible and (4) they were leading others astray. Matthew 23.
Zealotry is to construct rules beyond the Bible and, in so doing, to consider oneself immune from criticism because of radical commitment. What we have learned is that such a radical commitment is actually a fearful commitment rather than a life of freedom. common reactions to crestor
That’s a powerful statement – What we have learned is that such a radical commitment is actually a fearful commitment rather than a life of freedom
I remember growing up in a church where to become a member you had to agree not to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco. I was 18 at the time and didn’t smoke or drink so for me it felt like a non-issue. I hadn’t given the matter serious thought.
However I remember attending several church meetings where the middle aged men got into serious dispute with the older powerbrokers of the church. For as long as anyone could remember this was a ‘rule of membership’ for Scarborough Baptist Church, but now these men – who were godly people – were challenging the ‘fences’ that had been imposed. To the best of my knowledge none of them drank alcohol or smoked tobacco, but they were concerned for the way legalism was infecting the church and that it was easier to get into the kingdom of God than into our own church membership. They saw a bunch of pharisees making fences and living in fear and they refused to look away and keep quiet.
It wasn’t a pretty battle and we were made to think all sorts of terrible things about the condition of these mens souls and their own walk with God, but as an 18 year old who was in many ways an onlooker, I was struck by the importance of knowing what to fight for. I was also struck by how slanderous a church community could be and how evil people’s behaviour could become when their security was threatened.
In the end the ‘freedom fighters’ won the day (officially), but the attitudes remained and it took a long time for real change to occur.
Of course there are similar ‘freedom’ issues around in church at the moment and there is also a similar need for people to advocate listening to the Holy Spirit rather than the most conservative believer.
However if you do be ready, for the gloves will come off and the beast will bare its teeth… The only thing worse than fighting over ‘fences’ is living within them because of cowardice.