Legalistic… Liberal… Lukewarm
These three words have been spinning in my head a lot lately. A triad of extremes. Three little words that grieve me.
They’ve been in the media. They’ve been spoken at church. I’ve read them on Facebook. I’ve heard them in sermons, commercials, testimonies, and speeches. They bother me.
These three words, each in their own right detrimental to America’s way of thinking and acting and voting and living. These three words that are encroaching upon the way non-Christians view the church. These three words that some Christians are embracing with loving acceptance.
Liberal. Legalistic. Or Lukewarm.
I’ll start with Legalistic because that’s where I started. Legalistic Baptist Church. Wearing dresses or skirts only. In the church every time the doors were open. Memorizing. Quoting. Performing. Knocking on doors. Not because I was in love with Jesus but because that is what was expected of me. Don’t get me wrong. There were a lot of folks there who probably loved Jesus a lot but I never felt that we were doing things out of love as much as we were doing things out of obligation. I walked the aisle at age 9 because I was terrified of hell, not because I was in love with my Savior.
I sat at church camp in my culottes. I sat in the sanctuary tapping my toes to the organ music. I sat there all 6 nights of Revival services. I sat in the choir loft during the Christmas Cantatas. I sat in the back row during my youth group days. I sat in the nursery on my Sundays to serve. I sat in the van on mission trips. I sat. And I sat. Nobody was running or leaping or … (dare I say it?)…. DANCING!! Dancing was on the long list of forbidden “thou shalt nots” that I adhered to for fear of hell, fire, and being a permanent outcast.
Legalism in the church stifles any spark that the Holy Spirit wants to fan into a roaring flame. It hinders growth. It puts the Holy Spirit in a box. It kills churches and it turns sinners away without any hope of ever measuring up to the impossible “thou must always” list that’s posted by the front doors. Jesus did not die on a cross so that we could live out our lives checking boxes and aiming for unattainable perfection. No, He did not. Jesus died on a cross because we are ALL hopeless, flawed, imperfect human beings in need of not only a Savior but a relationship with a Savior that loves us unconditionally. Yes, He did.
But where Legalism smothers a spark, Liberalism burns out of control.
Liberal Christianity is on a rise and secular media is embracing it with arms open wide. While this should be a tell tale sign to Christians that something is amiss, this generation’s fear of being labeled “intolerant” has them running by the truck-load into the open arms of the all-tolerant liberal media. (Well, maybe not “all-tolerant”. They tend not to tolerate the intolerant. But that’s another blog post entirely.)
Over the past few weeks I’ve been participating in a Bible study by a popular, beloved Christian author. She’s wildly hilarious, has an amazing writing style, and her honest vulnerability is a breath of fresh air to worn out mamas and yoga-pants-wearing-women everywhere. But as I followed her on social media I was shocked by her very openly liberal political opinions and her unashamed passion for things that I am very much against.
Politics. Yep. I’m bringing up politics. It’s an election year so politics are everywhere and as ready as we all are to be done with this horrid election, it’s still worth mentioning that a person’s political views are completely intertwined with their religious/spiritual/ethical/moral convictions. And if they’re not… well then, their convictions must not run very deep.
Let me be clear- contrary to what almost all secular and liberal media outlets report- being “against” something does NOT mean you are afraid of it. I’m not sure who stumbled upon the gold mine of labeling unashamed Christians as being “afraid”, but it has certainly been beneficial to their cause. Don’t like a Christian saying they think homosexuality is a sin? Tell the Christian they are afraid of homosexuality and you’ll make them and their argument look weak. Don’t like a Christian saying that we need to respect our police officers and other law enforcement officials? Tell the (white) Christian they are afraid of black people and make them and their argument look weak.
I’m here to tell you I am not weak. I am not afraid. Of homosexuals. Of black people. Of politics. Of loud-mouth liberals. Of secular media. I am not afraid. Why? Because greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world (I John 4:4). I can and I will stand firmly on Biblical truth because it cannot be shaken. God cannot be shaken. My beliefs, my views, my moral compass… they’re not part of a trending fad of acceptance and tolerance. They are timeless truths that were given to me by the love and mercy of my Savior and nothing is going to change that. Ever.
I struggled as I read Facebook posts and interviews and Tweets of the afore mentioned author. Do I stop reading her books? Do I tell my friends that I’m done with this author? Do I publicly denounce any further alignment with her and her book studies? One article about her liberal beliefs said that Christians should just take her beliefs with “a grain of salt” and filter them through their own beliefs. I think that’s true with anything we read outside of Scripture, but that response felt very weak. A mamby-pamby response to a mamby-pamby response.
So I’m just going to say it. Sin is sin. Sin should not be accepted. But it SHOULD and it MUST be forgiven. When Jesus talked to the adulteress woman in John 8, not only did He not condemn her, but He told her to “go and sin no more”. He didn’t pretend adultery wasn’t a sin. He didn’t embrace her and tell her she could go and commit adultery in His house. He reminded the people condemning her that they were all sinners just as each of us today are all guilty of sin. But Jesus would have done this woman a disservice if He told her to go about living her sinful lifestyle just as Christians today do a disservice to those we do not warn about the dangers of the sinful lifestyles they are in.
Liberalism is a slippery slope.
Lukewarm. There’s a word.
If you ever watched the movie “War Room” you saw Miss Clara give Elizabeth a great analogy of what it means to be lukewarm when she offered her a cup of room temperature coffee. Like the Scripture in God’s Word, Elizabeth was ready to spit that lukewarm substance out of her mouth. Like a good cup of coffee, God wants His children to be hot or cold.
Lukewarm Christianity is dangerous. Anything not leading people TO Christ is leading people away from Him. Anyone not standing up to evil is falling to evil. Edmund Burke is credited with saying that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Truer words have never been said.
Saying “I don’t want to get involved” is the same as saying “I don’t care enough about this situation to stand up for it.” Many Christians don’t want to hear this. They don’t want to face the reality that they’re lack of involvement is really just acceptance. They don’t feel that they have to fight every fight. They don’t feel that they need to put themselves out on a limb if it’s not something they’re directly involved with. So they don’t. And when good men do nothing, evil triumphs.
Legalistic. Liberal. Lukewarm. Three little words that grieve the heart of God. Three little words that should grieve the hearts of Christians and call them to action against complacency, altruism, and a life of checking boxes. Three little words that God has laid on my heart to recognize. To call out. To call attention to. To warn others of. To speak out against in His Church. Three little words that can bring so much damage if good people do nothing.