Productive Wilderness Life Series (Part 5) – Integrating the Father’s Love
Understanding what legalism really is gives you the ability to overcome it. Let’s start by considering its opposite – Fathers Love Basic Trust.
Fathers Love Basic Trust means you are resting in the Father’s unconditional love. You can hold your heart open even when you are vulnerable to getting your feelings hurt. You don’t resort to control tactics.
Basic trust is both the opposite of legalism and what your heart must integrate to grow in freedom from legalism.
How Legalism Happens
Legalism happens when we have unresolved sonship identity issues and so we try and protect our hearts. When we get triggered from some wilderness-life experience, legalism gets activated.
It is so easy to move from acceptance to narrowness, from tolerance to bigotry, inclusion to exclusion at the drop of a hat. These are forms of judgments our hearts make when feeling unsafe. They express legalism — a judgement of someone’s behavior we deem that disqualifies them from love unless they change.
Legalism is not just found in the Pharisee of the Gospels; it can also be observed in gangs, the in-crowd at high school, church, and even our present world system. Watch a teenager act in a way inconsistent with the values of the popular clique in high school and watch how fast they’re ostracized. This very simply is legalism.
Allow me to give you my definition of legalism. Legalism is anything I do or say, any attitude that I have, that I think makes me righteous or acceptable. In other words, I am proud or condemned by my adherence or lack thereof to certain standards or beliefs, and I feel you are accepted or rejected by the same measures also.
Galatians 3:12 — the law is not based on faith; the man who does these things will live by them. This verse is saying that my heart has not found safety because of my faith in God’s love, but instead I try to keep it safe by the laws I live by. And this living by law often plays out as dominance or dependence.
Dominance or Dependence Versus Fraternity
Wounded people relate by dominance or dependence. There is no trust so there is no ability to be in community. There is no way to simply be a contributing member of society, no sense of being in brotherhood or partnership with those around us. People who are hurt have a need to lead and dominate, or to be dependent like a victim in need of help or rescue. Both of these are attempts to be in control to protect the heart. Remember the overt and covert ways we looked at control last lesson?
Legalism is about being controlling because of my lack of fathers love basic trust (I am not secure and so I need to do something about it). In the next lesson we will look deeper into how these control issues come about.