It’s a good check for me when I get comments or tweets hinting that I’m coming across as legalistic. But it also stings. Because that’s not my heart. At all. I think these implications mostly stem from association with people I’ve quoted, books I’ve reviewed, etc. But I want to be clear that just because I retweet someone, like them on Facebook, review their book, or quote them on my blog, it doesn’t mean that I hold everything they say, do, or believe as the concrete truth.
More than that, I want to confess that I do have a bent toward legalism and self-righteousness. I’m a 21st-century, American Pharisee most of the time. I follow needless rules, embrace hypocrisy, and sometimes say judgmental, terrible things. That’s because I’m a human, a sinner, and still stuck in this screwed-up flesh. I’m not excusing my sin, just trying to be honest.
But if I lean toward seeming legalistic in how I view my relationship with God, it’s not because I think I can strive with my own ability to earn God’s favor— it’s because I know I can’t. I know the sway and the strength of my own sin. I know I can drag myself down quicker than you can say “relapse.” This is why I write and live the way I do— I know just how easily I can fall.
So maybe that means I’m stricter on myself than I should be. Maybe that makes me seem rigid and regulated when it comes to how I follow Christ and participate in the Church. I’m sorry if that rubs you the wrong way. I’m deeply, deeply sorry if that somehow muffles the name of Christ that I’m trying to proclaim clearly. That’s not my intention, and I pray that God would lead me away from anything that does that.
I do believe that we as Christians are called to a great, life-changing commitment and that following Jesus the way Scripture says takes a lot of hard work. We’re called to die to ourselves, for Pete’s sake! But that work amounts to nothing in terms of earning salvation. We didn’t do any fraction of a percent to earn new life in Christ. He did it all.
There is grace, always, standing at the forefront of my life and my relationship with Christ. Without it, all hope is lost. I work, yes; but I work not because I think I need to, but because I want to. Everything Christ pours into my life, namely himself, I want to pour back out as an offering to him. My life is not my own. It belongs to Christ.
So I do have rest and peace in him. But rest and peace do not mean you always have to be still and silent. When I write about trying, striving, or failing, I am not clawing endlessly up a steep mountain, clinging to the rocks for life and just hoping that I’ll make it to the top alive. Instead, I’m running with Christ. It’s still strenuous, and I know the terrain can be rough, but I don’t want to stop because I want my feet to land behind his always. If I fall, he’s there to pick me up. If I stumble, he’s there to steady me. If I get tired and thirsty, he’s there to refresh me. If I lose sight of him for a moment, he’s there, waving me back to where he is.
See, I could never make it one step on my own. But he made me new. And now that I have the ability to run with him, there’s nothing I’d rather do.
I hope this made some kind of sense. It was tough to wrap the right words around all I wanted to say in this post. Comment and share your own questions or struggles with this subject.