Monday, April 2, 2012

Loving or Legalistic?

I am going to say something that may upset you. It is a pervasive problem in the homeschool community, and I can no longer ignore it. It applies to all of us. In fact, if this doesn’t strike a chord with you, you may not be paying enough attention to this issue.

Let’s start with the basics: We are obligated to say something when a fellow Christian is committing an actual sin. We know what sins are if we read God’s Word on a regular basis. The Bible is clear that actions such as lying, slander, gossip, adultery, blasphemy, etc. are sins. When we see a Christian brother or sister lapsing into sin, we must point it out. This is the “speaking the truth in love” spoken of in Ephesians 4.

But other things that may bother our personal sensibilities are not sins. You may feel convicted that women should not wear pants. That is fine for you, but the Bible does not say that a woman who wears a pair of Levi’s is committing an offense against God. You may think that dating in any form is wrong, but I also know Christians who are happily married after meeting through dating. You may think that one person’s eyeliner or hairstyle is over the top, but is bold fashion a sin?

Romans 14 addresses this matter directly. 1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

 “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,

‘every knee will bow before me; 

  every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

Please note that Paul is saying that the one who is “weak in faith” is the one who feels obligated to follow “extra” rules. In this case, the person feels that he must be a vegetarian to follow God. Such a person must not be ridiculed by the meat eaters, but should be allowed to follow his or her personal conviction. At the same time, there is no such thing as a “dietary sin”, so a person who feels compelled to follow dietary restrictions should not require others to abide by the same rules.

Paul was using the example of extra dietary rules to illustrate the point that we cannot go around policing the Christian world according to our own extra-Biblical convictions. Homeschoolers are notorious for doing just that to each other. We are people with strong wills and convictions, but Galatians 6:3 says, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” There are many talented, determined people in our midst, but we can get too full of ourselves.

We cannot play the role of the Holy Spirit in convicting fellow Christians of the specific choices that they should make. To do so indicates an overinflated sense of our own importance and a heart that is hardened to the needs of others. If we catch ourselves in the error of imposing legalism on our friends, it is a sign that we need to realign ourselves with God, because we are out of touch with His purposes. God fashioned the body of Christ to be diverse and full of freedom in Him. To choose to impose your legalistic rules is to forget God’s call to love and acceptance of each uniquely created person.

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