There is constant tension between legalism and libertinism in the church.
Legalism binds to the external and performance. Libertinism pleases only the individual. Like legalism libertinism associates with Christ as an icon but neither is under his rule. Jesus is not manifest as Lord of their lives in a demonstrable way. One adheres strictly to the church code and the other to his/her own personal, code neither is yielded to Jesus. This is Bad Religion!
Yielded to Jesus means you do what he says in his spirit for his purpose.
When you live by church code you need no faith. You simply look for herd for approval.
When one lives by doing what is right in their own eyes, that person does not reference the heart and purpose and person of Christ.
Legalism forces conformity from the outside. It deals primarily in perceptions and stepping in line with the herd. It forces judgmentalism. Biblical grace is foreign. These look to the herd for direction because it is by them they are judged. It has Christ as an icon but doesn’t need to refer to him for approval but instead to the institution. They say it is Christ whom they follow but their eyes are for the approval of the group. This is their security.
Legalism can produce nice clean families. It can get kids to college and into marriage. It makes great lawns and clean cars. It may improve your health and longevity. It may give great temporal security from all the bad of the world.
Nice people, nice jobs, nice kids, nice families but rigid and cold, without faith in Jesus. It produces nothing for the Kingdom. No love, no compassion, no reaching out to a desperate world, no living sacrifice, no risk. It has all the security and peace of trying to have Heaven on Earth. No change is their mantra and no risk is their creed!
The down side to the rigid structure is that it is harsh and develops judgmental people who can’t feel or see the pain of others. It is calloused. It builds a safe structure of security so to know not pain of others and as a result, it will not empathize. It gives simplistic answers to complex problems and punishes non-conformity. After a while living under this structure, you are ruined to faith in Christ, this side of a miracle awakening from Jesus himself.
You know a ministry by its fruit. It is the people stupid! They are a direct reflection of the theology of the church. The people are only doing what they are taught.
They believe in the institution i.e. church and give mere reference to Jesus and his words. This can exist in any ministry. This evil spirit flows freely to institutions and individuals. It is sprinkled throughout Christianity. Yet, it is not as prolific as libertinism.
Libertinism, is the same problem spun a different way, of course those legalists have no trouble judging them, which is what they do best. They have gone pro!
These really have no morality necessarily. It isn’t to say they are bad but what the Bible says and what Christ would have, are put aside for their convenience, desire and personal belief system. This predominates in the church today. The problems are vast. The witness of Christ and the extension a gospel that produces nothing. From this the title of hypocrite is earned by the church.
The theology and practice of a church will produce a type of Christian. We aren’t looking at the best or worst Christian in the Church but just the normal run of the mill person of the pew. This is roughly the 60% in the middle. These are the fruit of the ministry. They will reflect the norms of a church. This is their fruit, legalists or libertine.
We are to develop people with a personal faith in Christ that produces a lifestyle of sacrificial compassion for the world. It struggles with the poor for the poor. It establish these free of guilt and shame and the burdens that once ruined them. These will produce in kind. They will start to love the life of faith not rigid conformity nor “do as you will.”
This faith risks security and peace, it has no office hours, it will extend what is needed and necessary for the extension of God’s love to this dying world. It spares nothing as did Jesus in his life and ministry. He did not come to make happy families per se but extend his love through us to a decaying world.
It deals with a messy world on their terms. It suffers loss of time and money and puts everything at risk. But didn’t Jesus die on a cross? Just an icon? John the Baptist lost his head! Why? Because he was an irresponsible Christian? The apostles died and suffered in prison! Why? Because they were missing Christ’s point? Are these just icons and heroes or are they the standards of faith.
Quit being cowards, hiding behind your conservative values, and families. Step up to salvation which comes by faith in Jesus, to observe the same path, as all who suffer in obedience.