Nominal Religion: Legalism


As we put aside the discussion on religiosity and hypocrisy, it’s time to uncover the scourge of legalism. Coming from the minds of Christian men and women, many supposed religious rituals, rules, and traditions border on legalism. Paul taught about the obstacle of strict adherence to the law rather than the spirit in Colossians 2:20-23:

“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

In this context, Paul is teaching those who were authentically converted to the teachings of Christ. In today’s culture, Paul might have said, “I know it’s a hard thing to do, but you shouldn’t live “socially and politically correct,” because now you are living a new life in Christ Jesus.” When we’ve grown up keeping “correctness” at the forefront of our minds, we are walking the beaten path of doing life as others see fit. We fall back into the oft repeated phrase of “that’s what you do,” and expect others to do the same. At this point, we could call ourselves “Trump-ed up talking heads,” or false teachers (pun intended). We are not the Lawgiver.

Therefore, to expound excessively about our own version of God’s perfect law at the intersection of judge and jury is putting ourselves above the law, as if we are the judges. Typical of C. S. Lewis, he injects a bit of wit and humor when he talks about the Christian rule of chastity in his book, Mere Christianity. Comparing his Animal self to his Diabolical self, he says “That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

Yes, it is better to be neither.

Until next time…