Legalism, Hypocrisy, and the Church

I hate it.  I hate, hate, hate, hate it.  It’s an insipid disease that’s creeped in a large number of churches today.

What I especially hate about it is all the people who are trampled and deeply hurt by a church because of it.

I just heard another sad story about someone who was deeply hurt by a church.  All they wanted was a nice celebration for their child.  However, everyone was so selfish, so self centered, that it was nearly impossible to put on – they were only able to play certain types of music, their child couldn’t invite certain people, and on and on – it was so bad, the mom was up crying the entire night.  About putting on a celebration for their child.  In a church.  All because people weren’t able to let go of their “convictions” about the most minor of things and act like the One who accepted and loved everyone.

Is this really how Christ wants us to act?  To deeply hurt brothers and sisters in the Lord because we aren’t willing to let go of our “convictions” and love and be transparent with them.

There’s also a church where they had to appoint a deaconess to oversee moms who were bickering over the most minor of things – Christian women.

That, my friends, is deplorable.  There’s this disease in the church (in general) where everyone is so set on their “convictions” about the most minor of things – listening to syncopated music is “sinful”, dancing is evil, etc., that we forget the greatest 2 commandments – love God, and love each other (I’m simplifying it, of course. 😛 ).  Even though we all may have different “convictions”.  Even though we believe slightly different things.  Christ commands us to live together in unity – surely He realized we’re not the same and we believe slightly differently (about morally unimportant matters).  There’s no excuse.

What I’ve noticed (in my limited experience) is that the churches who tend toward legalism also tend towards hypocrisy – they may be the most welcoming people on the planet, but once you actually start butting heads with them, and not follow all their “convictions”, they can get *nasty*.   Everyone acts like everything’s OK, that they are doing “just fine”, and there’s no transparency.  It’s almost like there’s a link between legalism and hypocrisy – if you are expected to follow every little “conviction” your “friends” have (notice the quotes), then you will naturally conceal struggles and hurts – you’ll be afraid that you’ll be shunned because you’re not “normal”.  Everyone is welcoming and happy – until they discover that you’re not “normal”, and then they’ll either turn on you with a vengeance, as what happened with the person in my true story, or become patronizing and talk to you like you’re doing something wrong, or that it’s just your problem and that *they* never have those problems.  Either way, people get hurt.  Sometimes really badly. 😦

 

…which brings me to our church.  I love, love, love our church – we do have our faults, but people are truly welcoming and loving, no matter what you’re going through.  We have friends there that I wouldn’t trade for anything – there’s a transparency, a willingness to share hurts and struggles, a non-judgmental atmosphere that is sadly very rare today.  Recently, a pastor got up in front of the congregation and apologized for some things he did that hurt other people – and people forgave him.  It was really neat to see.  If you’re hurting, if you are struggling with issues, CMBC is the place to be.  The perfect people/families can go elsewhere. 🙂

For example, there’s this German girl who’s temporarily visiting the US.  We invited her to our young adults group that meets every Sunday night.  Within like 2-3 weeks, she had a ton of new friends – now she’s one of us, even though she has a completely different background than the rest of us.  There’s people there from many different backgrounds and situations, and they’re all loved and accepted.

If only her experience was more common… :sigh:  Well, all we can do is do our part – trusting that God will guide us to people that are hurting, that are struggling, and help them go through the healing process and become more like Christ, no matter how different they are.

Disclaimer:  by “convictions” I mean unimportant things, not things like believing Jesus was the Son of God.  People can get so wrapped up in “not compromising on their convictions” that they forget that Love is the greatest command, not “not compromising on convictions”.  Convictions are good – if I believe that drinking (alcohol) is wrong for myself, I won’t drink.  However, I’m not going to judge someone who does drink.  Like everything in life, it’s a balance between grace and truth (or antinomianism and legalism) – loving people unconditionally, but at the same time, helping them grow in their faith and be accountable to each other.

Also, I want to be clear that I’m not just picking on that church – it’s one example of a million.  My dad’s cousin left a similar church, because he was hurt by it.  All churches have flaws – by switching churches, you’re basically switching one set of problems for another.  Our church has its own share of flaws in other areas. 🙂

Edit:  Anonymized it a little more to be on the safe side – the last thing I want is for people to guess specifics – this church/experience could be anywhere.  If you read my post before, please don’t analyze before/after to see if you can guess specifics – did I mention I hate gossip? (Hint: there’s a   99.999999999999999999999999999% chance you’ll be wrong with your guess)  The purpose of my post was to highlight a church weakness, not spread gossip.  If at any point I post something that could be construed as such, please sent me a message and I’ll correct it pronto.

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2 Responses to “Legalism, Hypocrisy, and the Church”

  1. Mazie Says:

    Really good post Nathan.

  2. Teresa Says:

    Finally I get around to reading this 🙂 . Thanks for the link… this was definitely a worthwhile read.


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