Legalism: A Recurring Problem! Part 2

by John Meador

Legalism: A Recurring Problem

Authentic Christian Living

The Pharisees were focused on ritual, while Jesus came talking about relationships. In Mark 3 Jesus explains what authentic Christian living is-what believers are to be about. First of all, love your enemies. Mark 3 says, "…He entered again into the synagogue…" Jesus knew the Pharisees were waiting on Him everywhere He went and every time He had something to say. Yet Jesus persevered, even going to the people who hated Him the most. Matthew 5:44 tells us what to do about our enemies: "But I say to you, love your enemies...and pray for those who pesecute you."

Do you have any enemies like Jesus did? Jesus didn't call them His enemies, but they certainly considered Him their enemy. Do you know anybody that constantly criticizes you, condemns you, and accuses you? You can never seem to live up to his or her standards. Is there anybody in your life who hates you with a passion and desires to see you hurt? What do you do with people like that? If you're letting Christ live through your life, you love them! Why? So Matthew 5:45 can be fulfilled: "...in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven...."

The second principle is in Mark 3:4. Jesus calls the man with the withered hand up in front of them all. "And He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?' But they kept silent." Put that in principle form and here's what you'll find: Kingdom living involves finding and doing what is right. God has given us so many different avenues by which to find right. For instance, the Christian has a moral map called Scripture. The Christian has a moral compass called the conscience, which enables us to know what is right or wrong. Finally, the Christian has a moral guide, called the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into our lives and He leads us. He shows us what is right and what is wrong. We can know the right thing to do and we can do it.

Verse 5 contains an example that illustrates a principle: "And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.'" Here we see a picture of Jesus' anger, and in that that picture we understand that we must be angry over wrong. Some would say you're not supposed to be angry about anything, but there are many different kinds of anger. When you look at the anger of Jesus Christ, you notice it was never anger in retaliation. Jesus' anger was always directed toward moral wrong. He exhibited anger when others were hurt as a result of some action. The Pharisees were a classic example of those hurting people by their rigid legalism, and the Bible says that Jesus was angry with them: "…After looking around at them with anger, He was grieved at their hardness of heart." Anger is what a good man feels in the presence of stark evil.

There's something wrong if stark evil is in our presence and we're not angry. Ephesians 4 is Paul's account of what we are to do with anger. In verse 26 he says: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." There's a difference between being angry and acting angry. Someone said, "Anger against wrong is a sign of moral health." If we are able to see a horrible crime against another and not be moved, there's something spiritually unhealthy about our lives. Jesus' anger burned for the moment, but grief over their hearts was what He carried away.

Also, we should show mercy in the face of hostility. Mark 3:5b says: "…He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored." Ministry costs something. It cost Jesus. Verse 6 says that as a direct consequence of what Jesus did in verse 5, the Pharisees began to conspire to put Him to death. Ministry cost Him His life. It will cost us. It may cost us popularity, or how people receive us at our workplace, or in our family. It's always right to minister, no matter what it might cost us. There are those in other parts of the world who will tell you that to open their mouths with the name of Jesus Christ is to put a death sentence over their heads. But they do it anyway. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. They recognize that ministry costs and yet it's worth it.

Finally, authentic kingdom living attracts people in need. Mark 3:7 says, "And Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude heard of all that He was doing and came to Him." People walked more than 100 miles just to be in the presence of Jesus. I look at that and think, "Where has the church erred?" Why neglect the powerful ministry principle here? The power of Christ's ministry is a pattern for the body of Christ. Today there are churches taking their ministry pattern from everywhere except Jesus Christ. They're taking it from modern-day business practices or from churches that seem successful. Yet here we have a tremendous example showing that when we minister in authentic Christian living, God draws people from all around.

How must we live in order to captivate the hearts of people so that they would go any distance to be near? Authentic Christian living is how we must live.

John Meador is senior pastor of Woodlawn Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee