Zhao Xin was a marquis and general during the 1st Han dynasty of China.  As with any nobleman, he had many servants to do his bidding or to take care of him.  One story of him relates how he fell asleep while drunk and was covered with a robe by one of his servants.  Upon awakening, he realized that someone had been kind and concerned about his welfare in laying the robe over him.  Wanting to reward the thoughtful person, he inquired of the attendants present, “Who covered me with a robe?” Upon learning that the keeper of his hat had covered him instead of the keeper of his robe, he punished both men.  He punished the keeper of the robe for failing to do his duty, and he punished the keeper of the hat for stepping outside the bounds of his duty.  Such is the absurdity of legalism.  It goes to great lengths with detailed bodies of minutiae, but it usually neglects the things that truly matter to people.  Jesus warned about the dangers of legalism and constantly confronted the Scribes and Pharisees about their limited morality even while they were neglecting the more important matters of the heart and of loving service to God and to their neighbor. 

Legalism is a body of rules torn loose from their mooring to morality.  Without the connection to morality, the rules no longer make sense and can go to absurd lengths such as the story above.  Unfortunately, legalism has too great of an appeal to human pride and desire for control, so it is all too easy to lapse back into it, even for Christians.  With the focus on the outward appearance, you can neglect the harder work of changing your heart and your mind.  But it is fool’s gold.  It only has the appearance of true morality.  It has no real value in God’s eyes.  And it has very limited range.  Since it is done under human power, it always goes for the bare minimum and usually doesn’t even accomplish that very well.  Moreover, it only accomplishes that until no one is looking.  Then it lapses back into the original state.  It’s not real morality.  It never is.  But because it is cheap and easy, legalism is very popular and widespread.  It is rampant throughout our modern-day governments and legal systems throughout the world.  This is why you get such absurd rulings in courts these days and bizarre rules and regulations from legislatures and from the governments that apply their rules.

For the Christian, it is a slide back into what is comfortable rather than what is right, and it is the withholding of control.  You can all too easily come up with any limited set of rules and think to yourself, “If I only do these things, then God will be happy with me, and I can do what I want over here in this area of my life that I don’t want to surrender to God.”  True morality that pleases God is much harder.  It is the walk of faith.  It is the willingness to surrender to God anything and everything that He confronts us about.  It is the relinquishment of control to God.  It is not a set of rules, but rather it is a lifestyle that touches every single area of your life.  It is not doing just enough to get by, but rather it is going the extra mile and giving or doing sacrificially.  It can seem scary, but if we simply focus on obedience and allowing Him to guide us in what to do, step by step each day, and spend time with Him in prayer so that He can give us the power to do His will, then it is much easier than trying to live by an arbitrary and harsh set of rules that always leaves us dissatisfied and guilty. 

More on this tomorrow.

 


Comments

03/13/2017 12:49pm

The author always gives the story of life for teach the purpose of life. We are spend our life with many purpose and we should remember our God in every time. Because life is gift of God and worship is only way for get the peace in our life.

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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