Tag Archives: strong and weak

But what about…?

(We are making the move back to CO and the office, school, church, etc.  Please enjoy these posts from the archives.  You are welcome to comment as usual and I will respond on the other side.)

Continuing my response to a pastor…

I hope you don’t mind that I point out something here.  You wrote: “So many Christians in our churches are now adopting a lifestyle that sees them socializing at the local pubs and there seems to be no distinction between the way we live and those who know not the Lord!”  Do you realize that this was exactly the charge the Pharisees made against Jesus?  (Mt. 11:19; Mk 2:16; Lk 15:2)  They hated Him because He didn’t play by their rules.  Instead, He simply followed the leading of His Father.

Now, understand that I do not drink or go to bars.  The only charges we can find in Scripture, though, are to avoid drunkenness and be careful not to entrust yourself to the kind of people who frequent such places.  There is some concern for those who have struggled with alcoholism also.  But is it a sin to go into a pub or bar?  It doesn’t say that in Scripture.  So I would tell people simply to follow Jesus.  There may be a time or a reason for “socializing at the pub”.  He apparently did something enough similar to that to be accused of compromise.  One of my sons works at a secular store with unbelievers.  He is known to be a Christian and has conversations all the time about the Lord.  Occasionally, his work-group will meet for a social time and the meeting place will be a pub-type place.  He prays and seeks the Lord’s will before he goes to these events and he usually is free to go.  If someone saw him there he would look just like the rest of the people, but he doesn’t drink.  He hasn’t really compromised in any way.

I have found that many people will complain about the behavior of those who understand grace because they want to do the same things.  They want the freedom a proper understanding of grace provides.  But they are afraid of what others will think.  They know that they will be judged.  So they look from the outside and criticize.  I would suggest that their own hypocrisy is a serious sin.

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How to live with a Legalist

(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.

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Filed under Church, Grace definition, Legalism, Relationship

Strong or Weak pt 3

But there’s more: I think the weaker person is actually affected by the things he believes have power over his life.  He is drawn toward, tempted by, those things he is afraid of.  What that means is that he will be more likely to act on them, more likely to be hurt by them, than the strong person.  The strong person has no fear of those things and is, therefore, less attracted to them. 

It seems to me that it is because of this attraction that the stronger brother ought to be careful around the weaker.  The weaker brother is more open to damage and addiction, simply because he believes these things have power.  The stronger can have a glass of wine at dinner, for example, but he must remember that his weaker brother sees the alcohol quite differently.


Filed under Freedom, grace, Legalism, Uncategorized

Strong or Weak pt 2

The real teaching of weaker vs stronger is surprisingly simple, I think.  The weaker person is the one who believes that his spiritual security or progress is affected by the outside world—the things he touches, sees, eats, hears, etc.  As long as the world can affect his spiritual life, he is at risk.  He must be very careful all the time.  The strong person, on the other hand, is the one who knows that he is absolutely secure in the love of God; that nothing earned him his salvation and nothing can take it away or damage it. 

When the weaker person accidently drinks alcohol that has been mixed into a punch, he becomes afraid and angry.  The same thing happens when he flips a television channel and sees something he believes is wrong.  He worries that what he sees will defile him and he suffers.  When the strong person experiences these things he can simply move on in freedom and peace.  He knows that these things cannot touch him spiritually. 

There are still consequences, of course.  When either of these people drink too much alcohol and become drunk, for example, they can suffer or inflict physical harm.  But, even then, the strong believer knows of God’s continual forgiveness and continues his walk.  The weak believer suffers shame and guilt.  This is not freedom to sin, as some would accuse, but freedom from sin’s effects in the spiritual realm.  In the physical/temporal realm, sin continues to have serious effects.


Filed under Freedom, grace, Legalism, Uncategorized

Strong or Weak?

I recently received a question that opened my thinking to the whole “stronger vs weaker” teaching in the church.  Identifying who is stronger and who is weaker has been a matter of strange ideas and viewpoints.  Because many are confused about this, I offer some thoughts.  This will take a few posts. 

 This whole teaching about the weaker and stronger brethren was twisted and warped until it was grotesque in the legalist circles I was in.  People would come to me, as the pastor, and tell me that the church had to adopt certain restrictions or they would be offended by something.  They took some kind of pride in being the weaker brethren.  At one point we were asked to label the ingredients of any hotdish brought to a potluck supper, not for allergies or health concerns, but for Old Testament dietary restrictions.  Some were concerned that they might accidently eat pork.  We were expected to edit videos shown in Sunday School and sing only certain kinds of music.  It was all done under this “don’t offend the weaker brethren” dogma. 

The fascinating thing was that when I confronted them with the idea that the people who were able to eat ham or drink alcohol or watch tv would then be the stronger Christians, they balked.  They didn’t really like that.  No one wanted to be seen as weaker unless it gave them power to make others change!  They also didn’t seem to like the idea that the weaker brethren should seek to become stronger.  Bottom line: it was just another one of their deceptive techniques. 

Have you experienced this?  Comments?


Filed under Freedom, grace, Legalism, Uncategorized

Gracism book

I recently finished David Anderson’s book on inclusion called, “Gracism.” He introduces a new term which, he believes, will help people understand a biblical perspective on the race concerns of our culture. In many ways, Anderson’s book is a practical and honest consideration of Christian love.

Anderson has an agenda, of course, and uses grace to communicate his concerns. His idea of grace is that believers have been given something we neither deserved nor earned and we ought to give in the same way. He encourages us to reach out to those who are not included in our normal circles of affluence or influence, to deliberately cross any boundaries that have kept some people separate and disadvantaged. This reflects, in his mind, the grace of Christ.

While I wholeheartedly agree with the general thrust of the book, I found it to be too narrow in focus and too preachy for my enjoyment. I believe that grace teaches us that there are no barriers of race, gender, or life situation. I believe that the love of Christ is equally given to anyone. I believe that Christians ought to be the most inclusive and least bigoted people on the planet. A great deal of evil has been perpetuated in the church because of the narrow and unkind prejudices of believers.

Yet, I think Anderson steps into something less than grace when he suggests that we should actively seek out people who fit our definition of disadvantaged. It is a racial issue, for him. He admits that racial prejudices exist in all ethnic groups, but the message is clearly one of socialistic equalizing rather than simple love. Jesus welcomed all people and His welcome to the lesser esteemed people was noticed, but He was just as open to a Pharisee as to a prostitute. He found very few open hearts among the Pharisees or other advantaged people but His grace was equally available to them.

One interesting example near the beginning of the book is used to illustrate a “gracist” attitude. A woman standing in line at the airport sees a family from another culture trying to get into the line. She assumes that they do not understand the concept of lines because they are from a culture other than hers. They have children and are tired. The line has been established for some time and people have been very protective of their positions. So the woman allows the family to go ahead of her and she is lauded, in the book, as an example of selfless grace.

We might ask whether the people behind the woman were as blessed as she was by her action. We may ask how she knew that this family didn’t understand that they should get in line like everyone else. We may also wonder why this woman didn’t simply give her place in line to these strangers and go to the back herself, since that would have come closer to blessing both the family and the people behind her. But, instead, she decided that all the advantaged people in the line should be gracists.

I was hoping for something more than what this book offered when I considered the title. Racism, in any form, is abhorrent to the mind of Christ – but not because some can’t get into the special clubs at the airport. Racism is abhorrent because it allows a person to consider himself better than another when, in truth, all that we have is what we have received. I am not better than anyone else, no matter whether I have more things or opportunities. If Jesus leads me to share with others, I should; but I will not fix the problem of racism by sharing. I will simply communicate love.

All that I have and all that I am have come from the Lord who loves me – who gives to me in spite of what I have deserved. I should remember that when I consider others.

That’s grace!


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Filed under Book Reviews, grace, Grace definition

Why Are Legalists Mean?

From time to time I get a note from someone who has been hurt by a legalist.  The victim has been criticized or judged and wants to know why the legalist (or performance person) acts that way.  Here’s my answer to one such person.

If a person has to measure up in order to be acceptable to God, he’s in trouble.  His actions, both past and present, do not meet the standards he believes are necessary.  How does he survive the thoughts that this produces?  (This is the inner conflict that causes performance people to be depressed and just plain mean.) The only way to feel better is through comparisons.  He may not measure up to the ideal, but he may be able to surpass you.  When he measures himself against others, he has a competitive system of spirituality that moves him to hide his own sins while pointing out those of others.  Of course, this doesn’t help his true problems.  He may still be depressed and/or mean, but he will have something going for him.  He may actually feel better about himself. 

If he thinks in terms of a competition then he will probably see only right and wrong, good and bad, superior and inferior, winners and losers.  When one is right the other, who disagrees, must be wrong.  One of the tenets of the performance system is that superior spirituality will lead to higher honor and increased influence/power.  If he accepts that successfully spiritual people have more influence/power, then he may also accept that the one who causes another to act in a certain way is the spiritually superior one.

When performance people read that the strong are to yield to the struggles of the weak, they find themselves in a logical loop.  They want to be the stronger, because that appears to be the superior position, but they see that the weak have the influence they desire.  Remember that the goal is not real growth.  The goal is to be considered more spiritual.  The one with the influence is more spiritual.  Thus, to be weaker, according to their system, is to be stronger.  And around and around we go…


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