BEWARE THE DANGERS OF LEGALISM
At times, all of us are guilty of it: legalism. That's when we judge others by a script -- our scripts, like lawyers, the words as we read them.
How many times have we written someone off as errant or even a sinner, a heretic, hell-bound, for disagreeing with certain aspects of faith as we see them?
It is for the Lord, and the formal hierarchy of the Church, to judge.
Now, there is certainly a place for rules and laws! No question. We need order (in our Church as well as our lives). We speak as traditional types.
The balancing act is making sure, as Jesus stressed, that we don't put the word of the law above the spirit of it.
Legalism is seeking to achieve righteousness by focusing almost solely on keeping rules or laws (and forgetting about love).
It is seeking God with the intellect instead of the spirit.
This strips the Mystical Body of its mysticism.
The fruits of such are all around us.
We're not speaking about the recent Synod, and its controversies. This was penned before that.
Be wary of those who are too loud and/or extreme. Loud is proud. Are their fruits peace? Or division? Argumentation (as opposed to debate) is from worldliness.
According to a deliverance expert named Derek Prince, doing this can even tend to a spirit of witchcraft. "We grow proud of our good works, and we become like Cain who offered to God the fruit of the ground, which God had cursed," he stated. "When the Church becomes legalistic under the influence of witchcraft, it loses any demonstration of the supernatural."
Pretty tough language from this fellow who went through the intellectual process himself (at Oxford) before finding the Holy Spirit. "Legalism leaves no room for God's supernatural," he wrote (in Called To Conquer). "What is the basic error in legalism? This is important because the basic error is a serious one. The basic error is rejecting the Holy Spirit."
Few would associate a haughty, legalistic, intellectual approach to religion as "witchcraft" -- but it can feel similar, and the oppression can be stultifying. Look too at Galatians 3:1-3: "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?"
Edify. Never discourage others with your self-righteousness, nor deceive yourself with pride (which causes deception). Don't trip over religiosity (on the way to holiness). Prince himself was a non-Catholic Christian -- and one with which we can also find points of dispute, if we so wish. But let us listen to this learned man for another moment. "Why," he asked, "do so many denominations have so many different varieties? Why do they split so often? Because of their intense legalism that releases these ugly works of the flesh. Christians may stay away from drunkenness and immorality, but they do not seem to be able to stay away from strife and bitterness and hatred."
Just turn on the radio. Watch an anti-Catholic evangelist on TV. As for the supernatural -- or lack (due to legalism) thereof: a Pope once said that it's "better to believe" in the report of a miracle "than not believe; for if it is true we attain graces from it, and if it is not, we are graced as if it were" (with certain exceptions; our paraphrase).
When there is a mystical vacuum -- aridity -- it is filled by the spirit of witchcraft.
The fruit (under the guise of religion): angry words and an unhappy face.
We see this most starkly in Islam (which comes down to us, perhaps, from Cain; see footnote). "Legalism has one great hold on the human mind: It appeals to our human pride," wrote Prince. "That is why people can be passionately dedicated to a legalistic religion [such as Islam, which is based on a book -- the Koran -- that even calls for beheadings]."
It isn't just Muslims. They take it to the extreme -- killing -- but we can also kill the spirit.
It is legalism that has caused so many through history to split with Rome. It is legalism that causes us to focus on petty disputes instead of the major ways we need to purge our souls to prepare for Heaven. It was legalists who killed Jesus. It is legalism that condemns before it prays, before it loves, before it assists. It is legalism that judges harshly -- that criticizes so readily (Catholic versus Catholic, Christian versus Christian; both liberals and conservatives). It speaks more than it prays. Look at what the Pope said just today! (10/27/14) "Love is the measure of faith."
It is legalism that divides our church groups. At its far, far extreme, it has turned so many Muslims into terrorists.
"I have lived in the Middle East for years among Muslims and am familiar in some detail with the religion of Islam," wrote Prince. "I have said many times that it has never made one person happy in fourteen centuries. Not one person. It is a religion of misery, of rigidity, of slavery. Why then are Muslims so passionately dedicated to it? Because it appeals to their pride. They can quote you all that they have done to earn the approval of Allah."
[resources: Spirit Daily's New Bookstore and New: What You Take To Heaven]
[See also: retreat: Kansas City]
[Feedback from a Canadian viewer: "I read the Koran from cover to cover three times and re-read some suras a number of times. (Read it yourself. Buy it or go to your local library and borrow this book.) Islam is not a religion of peace. It is a religion of violence - to put it mildly. Some teach us that Christianity, Judaism and Islam are monotheistic religions worshiping the same God and that we are all children of Abraham. How could that be true? Judeo-Christian God teaches us that we come to Him freely and willingly, that He is merciful. He created us in His image. God gave us the Commandments.... Thou Shall not Kill... hence, He is not a killer and we, created in His image, must not do so. God does not need any human being to kill on His behalf and force anyone to believe in Him. And yet, this is precisely what the, ostensibly, same God dictates in the Koran. How is that possible? As for being 'Abrahamic' children, perhaps we are. Jude-Christians embrace Abraham's son Isaac. Islam embraces his son Ishmael. Regrettably, Koran is full of suras filled with hatred - read 8:12 or 9:5, among others. And now click on and read this link."]
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