The Bible and Legalism

One of my pet peeves is people that don’t make sense and won’t admit it.  Yesterday was Thanksgiving and I was on my way to my boyfriend’s parents’ house to have dinner when I heard Toby Mac on the radio sing, “I don’t wanna gain the whole world and lose my soul.”  First of all, if Toby is a Christian, I feel sorry for him.  He’s obviously in his mind committed himself to Christ and yet still worries about losing his soul.  This is something Paul warns about in Hebrews.  The Apostle Paul talks about those that are recrucifying Christ by sinning after they are saved.  Nothing makes me angrier.  Why?  Let me explain.

Back about ten years ago, I would have considered myself a vigilant Christian.  Basically, this is someone who is always worried about losing their soul.  I went to church.  I studied the bible.  On the inside, all I did was worry.  I worried if I had sinned in my thoughts or if I had said or done something that would cause me to go to hell.  Either you want to go to hell or you don’t.  If you don’t you won’t worry because you know that your intention is to be with God.  My intention was to be with Christians.  I thought Christians were all on the right path because they were constantly peppering their conversations with, “I pray” or “I’ll pray for you” – you know the Christian legaleze.  Always, they and I would correct ourselves if ever we stepped out of line.  It was all bullshit.  Humans are not perfect even after we’re saved.  We are supposed to be in a process – a learning process.  No Christian pops out of the baptismal primordial water with a perfect, and actualized self.  If that were the case we all would have arrived because no one would consciously choose this hell of making mistakes and learning from them.

As I was riding in the car on the expressway, in the pouring rain and ominous-looking clouds overhead, I thought – just for a second, “Shit!  What if my soul is at home and I’m leaving it behind to be with my family on Thanksgiving?”  Which is about ten miles down the expressway.  Then I thought, no!  Why does this always happen when I go to go somewhere I want to go?  When I drive twelve miles down the road to go to church on Sunday Toby Mac isn’t belting some crap about me losing my soul.  I said to myself, “I am not going to worry,” only because it is in my nature and I have a tendency to worry about things like that.

My experience in earlier years was that I did go to hell.  I was in a pit of sulfur, brought there by a flying demon (in my sleep) when I prayed the Lord’s Prayer and woke up safely in my bed with my lungs still burning.  I really don’t even know what I did to get there.  I was living against the Lord’s Will but I was still a Christian.  I didn’t feel what I was doing was wrong so I didn’t stop doing it.  I was basically living a promiscuous lifestyle and wasting money.  I went to church.  No one was rebuking me.  My conscience wasn’t feeling convicted.  I just had a nightmare that I was in hell.  

I still had faith and God saw that as sufficient enough reason to save me.  I still believed God was good.  I had not arrived but I still believed, which, incidentally, is arrival enough to God.  This is why the Apostle Paul seemed like such a turd to me in years later.  He perpetuated the idea that Christ wasn’t enough.  If we didn’t hang on tight enough with our strict theology we could blaspheme against the Holy Spirit or some such nonsense and do the one thing that would send us to hell for eternity.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that Paul suffered in his ministry.  But so did Job and Job was saved by God, not his own precious knowledge or sufferings.  I think Paul suffered because the physical pain of his sufferings was more familiar and comfortable to him than the freedom and freefall of knowing he was safe.  These are more reasons why I think we are not wise to refer to the bible as the infallible Word of God.  Christ is the Word.  The red lettering in the bible – that’s the Word.  What Christ speaks to you – that is the Word.  Paul may have authority over the church but it’s a sick type of authority.  It’s an authority that believes it’s still ok to write curses on people that don’t agree with you.  What salvation does the bible offer those people with black skin?  Apparently, those under the curse can never inherit the promise of God.  But there is no curse, no black, no white, no sex, no gender, no slave or free – all are free under Christ.

When I was sinning and not listening to God and doing what the church (Paul’s following) tried to condemn me for I was only doing what was in my nature to do.  I thought it would make me happy, it didn’t and I suffered.  But when my conscience wasn’t convinced I was sinning it didn’t hurt and what doesn’t hurt us should certainly not have the power to condemn us.  But neither should Christians.  Even if we are Paul and have more “Apostolic Authority” because we’ve suffered more beatings, we don’t have the right to crucify other Christians because we still struggle with guilt.  I say, first absolve your own guilt by working out your salvation in a reasoning process in your own mind with God on one side and hell on the other then realize you are not guilty because Christ said so but for God’s sake Paul, quit pushing people over the edge you can’t manage to overcome.

The problem with the Bible is legalism.  I spent years conscious of every move I made and every breath I took and tried to be flawless.  All it gave me was a stomach-ache and an uneasy feeling.  I got sick of pretending to be perfect and started doing what I wanted.  This made people at my church unhappy.  They made me step down from responsibilities I had taken on and also they backed out of my life in terms of support.  I don’t know how they expected me to recover and I don’t think they cared.  But God still cared and my family still cared and for those reasons I am here today.  I wake up to every sunrise grateful and glad I didn’t give in.

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