I’ve lived much of life dodging rocks in the road. Sometimes I’ve hit the rock and been stuck for a time (days, weeks, months). I spent much of my college/young adult years running into the rock over and over and over again just like you would see in a cartoon.
Now, before you wonder about my sanity (which you probably already do), I’m not talking about a physical rock like the one in the picture. I’m talking about the “rock” of the legalism. In Romans 9, Paul talks about how the many of the Israelites could not find right standing with God because they were trying to get there by keeping the law instead of trusting God. In Romans 9:31-32, it says…
31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. (NLT)
It’s easy for me to shake my head and wonder how in the world the Israelites missed Jesus. How did they miss what God was telling them and showing them? Because there was a rock in their path that dominated their view and blocked the path. They were so busy running into the rock of the law that they missed Jesus. And while it might be easy for me to look at them and wonder, I have been guilty of doing the same thing in my own spiritual journey.
I’ve run into the rock of legalism more times than I care to imagine. When I was a teenager, I set up my own rules.
- Don’t listen to secular (worldly) music.
- Don’t cuss.
- Don’t drink.
- Don’t smoke.
- Don’t (insert whatever got on my nerves here).
- Go to church (the right church).
I used my rules to judge my own relationship with God and other people’s relationship with God. As long as I didn’t do any of these evil things (I’m talking about you, MTV), and I went to church, then I thought I was right in my relationship with God. And if you broke any of my rules, then it was obvious to me that you were destined for hell. How’s that for a way to live? Where did my legalism lead me? It led me to become a judgmental, self-righteous
nutjob person. It also caused me to totally miss the boat on grace. When I read my Bible, I kept running into the rock of my own legalism and missing the path of grace.
God and I wrestled over this for many years. Finally, grace removed my rock. I cannot earn God’s grace. I cannot live by a standard that matches what God expects. So I have to trust. I have to trust that Jesus is enough. Jesus is enough for me and he is enough for all those people out there who cannot live by my rules. Do you know what I found when God removed my rock? Freedom. I feel free to look at people and not judge them by my rules. I feel free to loosen up. I may even have a playlist on my phone that has some wonderful 80’s music on it (don’t tell my old self that). I feel free to know that no matter what person’s standards are held up to me, it doesn’t matter. Grace is enough. The rock is removed.
I notice that a lot of blog posts have lists. So, here’s my list for living without the rock of legalism.
- Live like Jesus.
- Forgive yourself when you don’t.
- When you hit the rock, ask God to remove it.
- When you hit someone else with your rock, ask to love as Jesus loves.