(This blog will be offline for a couple of weeks while I travel. Please enjoy these posts from the archives. Feel free to comment or ask questions. I will be able to respond when I return.)
From time to time I get a question asking how to deal with legalist family or friends. Here’s one answer I gave:
Rejoice in the Good News! Don’t condemn anyone or judge anyone and only condemn sin that is real sin. Don’t let those in your care condemn others without a challenge from you. Remind them to love and accept the people of God. Remind them that they are not better than others because of the things they do, that all are equal in Christ. All of these things you can back up easily with clear (untwisted) Scripture.
Use their vocabulary, but turn it back to Jesus. Let’s say some young man comes into church wearing a sweatshirt with the logo of a sports team. After you hear a comment, you could say “I can’tsee in Scripture where it is a sin.” In fact, be quick to say that you just don’t see some of their issues in the Scriptures. You don’t have to argue with them, just make it clear that you don’t agree. Talk about God’s love for all people, even those who don’t dress or act the way your friend thinks is right.
If you are consistently positive toward the things of the Lord and if you are unwilling to accept their nasty and negative perspective, it will cause them to wonder. Some of them will begin to ask the question you have raised: Is it really in the Scripture? Then, you have to trust the Holy Spirit to do His work.
I know from a great deal of experience that most of these folks are unhappy, frightened and even angry. They can never measure up! They try hard, but they never get it right. I heard several people talk about attending conferences and feeling discouraged and frustrated. They haven’t been able to make these laws and standards work in their lives up to this point and now they have a bunch of new ones. One man, who attended a certain conference every year, said something like, “Oh boy, it’s time to go get our annual dose of guilt!” Many of them really do feel like that. The only good feeling they get is when they can point out the sins of others.
And there you are, happy and positive in your relationship with Jesus. You live a good life and you are walking with the Lord, and you are a source of encouragement and blessing for those around you. That doesn’t make sense to them.