Three of the weapons that legalists use to make others do what they “should” do are guilt, shame and intimidation.
The other day, a good friend of mine who pastors a church told me that this free will thing is okay but that legalism is much quicker and has better results. I think he is right. When we are encouraging people to witness to their friends, for example, the results would be better if we used the three weapons of legalism, guilt, shame and intimidation. I am not sure we would get the same results if we just announced and encouraged people to witness and then went out and did it ourselves.
We would probably have more people respond to the legalistic way of encouraging good behavior, and after having done it, those same people would feel good about having done it.
The main problem in using the three weapons of legalism is that God never uses them. God respects our free will to the maximum. So, then I have to ask, who do we think we are using methods that God never uses?
Take the case of the rich young ruler in Mark 10. Jesus told him that he had to sell everything he had and give to the poor before coming and following Him.
The young man decided that he was not going to do that. In that moment, if Jesus had given him a good scare (maybe a minor heart attack might have worked) the young man would have seen more clearly, changed his mind, and chosen what was in reality the best for himself.
However, Mark says clearly that Jesus, while loving him, just watched him walk away.
The young man was actually sad when he left.1 To have made him feel guilty or to have shamed him or intimidated him in some way might have given the desired response immediately.
But there is no evidence in the Word that Jesus even called him back. Jesus totally respected the young man’s right to choose.
We do the same thing that the rich young ruler did. When we say the words, “No, Lord” we are not struck by lightening nor does He erase our name from the Book of Life. It seems like nothing happens.
It seems to me that God takes our rejection of His will way too well.
So, seeing it from this perspective, how can we dare impose our criteria or our will on others when Christ never did? Who do we think we are to force anyone to do what we want them to or what we think is right for them?
In the next three chapters, we will look at the three weapons of legalism and explore the danger that lurks in every one of them. Danger for us and danger for other believers.