I once belonged to a prayer group that prized ecumenical unity. We came from a wide variety of Christian traditions. We sang, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.” Then we split down the middle due to ruptured relationships among our leaders.
We formerly prided ourselves on our exceptional unity; then our leaders attacked each other. We were embarrassed and a bit humiliated. Our highly prized treasure—good relationships in the midst of very strong differences—had slipped from our grasp.
A fellow member heard of a Christian leader in a neighboring city who had committed adultery and raided the group’s bank accounts. Sitting next to me in a prayer meeting, my friend shared the story and then whispered, “At least we’re not that bad.”
“Great!” I thought, “that’s just what I want chiseled on my tombstone:”
The tag “Legalism” has become a common—and unfortunately appropriate— indictment against religion, churches, and Christians. We wantonly toss the term around; yet I believe we fail to fully understand it. As we accuse others of Pharisaism, I wonder if we are being a bit Pharisaic ourselves.
One of the problems with legalism is the belief that we know what is needed, and that we’ve done enough. The problem with legalism is Enoughism.
Let’s listen to this story of a young Pharisee and see if we can spot ourselves.