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  • Writer's pictureJanet Richey

The Legalist Has Left the Building

I’ve been frantically chasing my tail with this God’s Law and grace thing, and how to tie it into my previous blog “The Legalist Within.” When I sat down to write that, I was exasperated by a recent documentary highlighting a particular fundamentalist movement that reeked of pharisaic ideology. The producer’s seemingly sole intention was to paint every Christian like a zombie cultist, and I screamed at my TV like a rabid sports fan. “That’s not my Jesus! Try reading a Bible!” In that anger, I lost my empathy for the people who were genuinely hurt by that influential movement. Like Jonah watching Nineveh from the shade tree, I hoped they’d take each other out.

One by one these victims sat in an uncomfortable-looking confessional chair and gave a reverse testimony of how they used to love Jesus, but didn’t anymore. They went from being oppressed to having no rules at all. Both are decidedly outside of God’s Will.

Remarkably, that phenomenon isn’t confined to the people in that documentary. It’s happening with well-known mega-church preachers or their offspring, and contemporary Christian artists using their social media platforms to proclaim how dead their faith is.

And people are hanging on to every word. Especially our youth.

I realize that much of this is because of the changing social climate that has the church desperately swimming upstream. Could it also be that both churches without grace, and those without the law are governed by power-hungry men and women who have lost sight of their original mission? Sin is always the common denominator.

While I think anyone with internet access could name at least one worthy international ministry with a track record for reaching the seekers, I believe that the local church has more influence in both recovery and prevention of this level of apostasy.

But the local church is dwindling at an alarming rate, putting indescribable pressure on those still unwavering in their practice of the true Gospel. Our church leadership should not have to do it on their own. As members and regular-attenders, I feel we need to ask God where we can share the burden; a burden that we lovingly take on to bring those to a saving relationship with Jesus.

There were things that I experienced under a legalist regime that should have put me in one of those confessional chairs in the documentaries I talked about.

And yet…

Here I am, writing about God’s inexplicable love for me, and I believe it happened for two reasons. One, I chose not to ignore the audible whispers of the Holy Spirit directing me back to the direction and love I so desperately needed. Two, it was finding the church where I have experienced more spiritual growth in six years than I have in the entire 49 since I first said the sinner’s prayer.

So it seems, that while my legalist tendencies are as much a part of me as my greying hair and being a writer, I am slowly starting to realize that grace needs to find its way into the crevices of my heart. I need to apply it to my life and allow it to flow through me as I encounter hurting people.

And that is why the legalist has left the building.

I challenge anyone reading this to prayerfully consider reaching out to help the wounded; those who were scarred by the church, abused by a family member, or bullied in the classroom. The church is where you can find the resources and support to complete that mission. But as seen in countless testimonies, all it takes is one. That could be you.

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