A few months ago, I shared my story about leaving legalism. It was scary to be transparent about something that has really changed the way I view so much in my life. It was also scary to share that I had left such a system, knowing there would be those who think I was leaving the faith altogether.
Leaving legalism has provided me with an opportunity to look at God and myself in an honest way. The Lord has taught me more through this journey in which I’ve removed my mask and stood before Him just as I am. He’s revealed sin to me; deep, hidden things that I hadn’t ever seen before because I was caught up in appearances. It has helped me to understand that I mess up and have a lot of struggles, but I have a God who is willing to forgive and help me to turn from sin.
Legalism confined me to a bubble with a God who only liked me if I checked off my list of duties each day. Walking in grace allows me to have a God who walks alongside me each day, teaching me little by little. What a world of difference.
Legalism says “do, do, do.”
Grace says “done.”
I understand the concern, though. I used to really fear people who spoke like I am right now. I assumed they had compromised on their beliefs altogether. I questioned their salvation for listening to contemporary worship music all while patting myself on the back for being ultra spiritual. (Where is God in that?)
And sadly, sometimes that happens. Spend some time on forums created for people who have left fundamentalism and you will see people who reject God entirely. They’ve been so hurt by legalism that they have completely walked away and they mock Christ. It’s one of the saddest things I’ve seen. I’m thankful that the Lord has allowed me to remain anchored in His Word.
Leaving legalism for a Christian should not be swinging to the opposite end where we embrace lawlessness. It should not be a rejection of the Word of God or a compromise on Biblical morals. It should drive a person to their knees and into the Word of God for answers. (James 1:5)
Leaving legalism is NOT …
- Quitting church. You may have to leave your current church, but that shouldn’t be done without much prayer. It should be a last resort. You need to consider if maybe some of the issues lie within and aren’t necessarily an issue of the teaching. But if or when you do leave, you need to prayerfully consider where to move onto. If that means quietly observing for a few months, then do it. Do not get out of church.
- Forsaking the Word of God. I’ve already said this, but it is so vitally important that it is worth repeating. You cannot abandon the Word of God. The Lord is not the One who confused you and twisted your mind. He is the One who can give you clarity and understanding. Don’t put your Bible down. Get back to the basic truths of the Word and go from there.
- Compromising on your stand against sin. If the Bible said it was sin before, it’s still sin. You may realize that certain things you had been taught were wrong were simply personal preferences being taught as Biblical truth. Search it out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. But if the Bible speaks out against it, it mustn’t be ignored. If God convicts you, you are still commanded to be obedient. It’s easy to want to rebel, but allow the Lord to keep you from that mindset.
- Bashing others who you consider legalistic. (Or disagree with over standards/preferences.) We are to walk in charity and unity. Perhaps those same people hurt you or tore you down with their personal system of beliefs. We must give those hurts to the Lord and try to move on from them. This is probably one of the hardest things to do, because our emotions can be so powerful. But it does no good to leave a pharisaical system only to become a Pharisee of the Pharisees. Agree to disagree in a loving manner and leave it at that.
- Take time to heal. Don’t rush into another ministry opportunity. Your vision is clouded with many emotions. Stay faithful to church and soak in the preaching of God’s Word. The Lord will guide you where you need to go next.
- Don’t dwell in your anger. You’re going to experience many emotions, all of which are normal. However, try to move forward in a manner that allows you to move past this time in your life. If you need to create some distance with things that hinder you, then make the moves necessary. Make new memories in which you serve the Lord with a new heart and fresh perspective on everything you’ve learned and are still learning.
I share all of that with you to say this: I haven’t mastered all of these concepts! I still have many questions. I still have Sundays where I don’t want to go to church. Or I question things I’ve been taught and I get angry. It can be physically and emotionally draining. However, I just have to come back to the Lord and ask for help once again. I have to give these thoughts over to Him and continue to pursue Truth.
This pursuit should be one of love and grace. It should be what drives you closer to the Lord and not further away. There will be hard days where it’s tempting to walk away altogether, but don’t do it. Stay in the race, keep your eyes on the Lord, and continue to move forward.
My prayer is that if you’ve ever experienced church hurt, specifically as a result of legalism, that you wouldn’t walk away altogether. It’s so tempting. But the payoff and reward of staying by the Lord and in the Word is immeasurable.