I have a couple of friends whom I’ll call Edna and George. “Friends” might be too strong of a word; “acquaintances for whom I hold mostly affectionate yet mixed feelings” would be better.
Let me introduce them to you by telling you some of their flaws.
Basically, they really don’t seem to make a great first, second, fifth, or tenth impression. For the most part, I think their main issue is one of legalism; they see the world in black and white. They believe with all their hearts that they are right. If you agree with them, you’re right, too. If not, you’re a demon-spawn headed for the fires of damnation…though God can save you. They view everything through a (their) lens that judges, critiques, identifies failings, and renders unsolicited advice that you’d best follow, young lady, because they are right. They happen to be Arminian, openly claiming that Calvinism is a demonically-inspired false teaching; though I’m not sure if the legalism and the Arminianism go hand in hand.
Let me tell you a little more about them.
Oddly, I think their skills in this second set of descriptors rest in their legalism as well. They know with all their hearts that they are right about salvation. You can’t get them off-track doctrinally because they know they are right. They don’t back away from evangelism because they know they are right. They teach the Word of God without shame or hesitancy because they know they are right.
I’m naturally wired and environmentally influenced not to be a legalist. I see too many variables and possibilities to be a legalist. I see tensions and shades of grey. Exceptions outnumber the rules. Nothing is absolute except God; even our opinions about Him are relative. I grew up around a handful of people who offered judgmental, moral opinions about a host of topics because they believed their opinions were as absolute as their God; it has biased me against that sort of approach.
Sometimes, though, I wish I were I legalist. I think we all should wish for that.
I’m not the greatest evangelist. I often stumble in the areas of boldness and confidence. I’m too quick to admit my flawed understanding of all things biblical. I would rather discuss than instruct.
Oh, what I would give to be a legalist sometimes.
To be right. To be bold. To be an evangelist without hesitancy. To be driven by the rightness of my convictions instead of slowed by my willingness to admit that I might be wrong. To be able to throw out there the seeds of the gospel without worrying about fertile or infertile ground. To be, in some small way, a legalist.
There’s something to be said for that absolute conviction of rightness. Perhaps it would blind us to other things, but at least we’d be bold and confident, ready to preach the word at a moment’s notice without asking ourselves, “Do I really understand this well enough to teach it?”