Yesterday I wrote about a young lady whose online name is Ruth. She grew up in a family that is part of a legalistic system familiar to me. Her situation is complex, but let’s just say that she left her family and is trying to adapt to life on the outside. It’s hard for her.
Ruth just went through a heartbreaking experience. Her father used that opportunity to condemn her and then offer to take her back into the system. All she had to do was confess her sins and submit to his (and the system’s) control. Just hang her head in shame and come back into the bondage she deserves. That’s all.
Nice, huh? At a time when she is hurting and feeling vulnerable, her father comes along to push her deeper into the mud. This is why I see a connection between legalism and narcissism. There is no love. There is no real desire to help. There is only a desire to control for the sake of looking good.
When Ruth left her family, it made her father look bad. He had spent countless hours and an amazing amount of energy trying to look good in the eyes of the legalist system. The system includes his church, his friends, his homeschool institute community. But, when Ruth rejected the arranged marriage (yes, some of these people do that), she made dad look like he was not as much in control as he wanted others to think. So now he uses condemnation to push her down and lift himself up. At least he thinks it lifts him up.
Neither legalism nor narcissism cares about the person they use or hurt. People are, as I have said here many times: tools, toys, or obstacles. Both legalism and narcissism is about looking good to others, and both use control and manipulation as weapons. Both are evil.
But neither presents the truth about God. The narcissist is his own God, no matter what he says with his mouth. The legalist serves a false God of performance and condemnation.
The true God is about the person, the individual. He loves us, one by one. He knows our names and He knows the burdens of our hearts. He is active and good. I believe that God Almighty came in the person of Jesus to show us His love. He provided the way of salvation for us. He did the work. Now He simply invites us to trust Him.
We can’t trust a god who is focused on performance and standards and rules and work. It will never be enough. No matter how hard we try to serve that kind of god, we will fail. The rules change, the effort is never sufficient, the performance is always imperfect. But that’s a false god. That’s the god of the legalist.
Our God loves us. Jesus proves it.
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