Grace, God’s Grace
I feel bound. Working in a ministry with legalistic leadership, I had lost the joy in service and felt only anxiety and tension. Some mornings it was all I could do to get up and go to work. Many evenings I cried myself to sleep, praying “Lord, please hold onto me. I have nothing with which to hold onto you right now.”
This is one of the results of legalism that our pastor spoke about last weekend. Loss of joy, feeling like I need to “work harder” to please Christ, wondering if I’m following God’s plan for my life or someone else’s.
At the time, I felt my leader was asking things of me that God was not asking … signing a vow to commit to a somewhat nebulous goal (“Sign it or leave” – but where would I go? I wasn’t prepared to leave this organization I had helped establish); telling me I should not attend the church I did because they would pull me away from the ministry…not from Christ, but from the ministry.
I Tried Harder
I signed the vow. I went to the church where most of the staff worshiped. Sermons were excellent. But I missed my old fellowship and friends, and resented being told where to worship. If I didn’t follow the unwritten rules I was considered rebellious. I was told I “should” have joy. But I didn’t.
Legalism and my response to it resulted in some severe health problems. Finally the leader suggested that, since we had worked together for ten years, I take a month to rest. Before meeting him at the end of that month, I went to Yosemite to read and pray and seek God’s will. I didn’t hear a voice; I didn’t get a clear direction. What I did sense was that God was giving me a choice, with the assurance that He would be with me regardless of what I elected to do. I chose to leave that organization, but it took several years for my spirit and body to recover.
That’s a clear picture to me of the difference between legalism and grace. One said “You haven’t done all we required.” (You’re a disappointment. You failed.) It’s all about control.
Jesus said “What would you like to do, my child?” Grace is a free gift, unmerited favor with God. Wow!
In Galatians 5:1 Paul says “So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (NLT)
My husband is very gracious. He pulls my car out of the garage and next to the side door on cold mornings so that when I get into the vehicle it’s already warmed up and ready to go. He often empties the dishwasher first thing in the morning, before I’m up. He starts the laundry if I’m out for the day. But he does these things because he loves me amazingly, not because someone put a list up saying “Do this and that and the other …” These are acts of love, not of duty. There’s a huge difference between the two.
Isaiah 30:15 states “The sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, ‘Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.’ …” That reads to me like grace, not legalism – not “doing,” but resting, waiting, basking in the love of God, and then responding in love.
I’m still learning about grace. How about you? Are there areas where you feel bound rather than free? I’d love to hear from you.