No Christian wants to be called an externalist or a legalist, including me. Unfortunately, the sinful pride in my heart also REALLY likes to be “right,” which isn’t a path to humility or freedom.
In Chris’ sermon on Sunday, he spoke on Mark 2:23-28, where Jesus addresses the Pharisees’ legalism. Chris also asked very pointed statements about legalism and externalism in or lives. After the sermon, this question stood in my mind: Where in my life am I defending or holding fast to my opinion, my rules or cultural norms instead of the Word of God?
I didn’t have to search far for the answer. We went out to lunch and then rock climbing with a group of Fusion friends after church, and I found myself offering opinions decidedly on a variety of topics which were, admittedly, a matter of preference rather than alignment with the Word.
This isn’t an isolated incident. I can look back at many conversations and see where I tend to defend preferences with a dogma that should only be reserved for defending God’s truth. As a woman, I know that this will be an even bigger struggle when we have children. Cry it out or rock them to sleep? Disposable or cloth diapers? Homeschool or public school? The debate on “preferences” can be quite heated and never-ending.
Combatting this tendency in my heart first requires me to stop seeing myself as the ultimate source of wisdom. It sounds silly when put that succinctly, but my propensity towards strong opinions is nothing short of elevating my thoughts to the level of scripture. Memorizing a verse like Proverbs 3:7 helped me greatly in this perspective: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” Real wisdom comes from God and only from God, and “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).
I also need to recognize that God has a higher purpose for my interactions with others and for my words. The charge of Ephesians 4:29 is sobering to me: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
My hope and joy come from the knowledge that God is making me more like His Son, which means having His heart toward people instead of focusing on externals. I pray that the Spirit helps me to ask before I speak: “Are you speaking God’s heart, or your opinion?”