Tag Archives: rules and regulations

I Went to Pakistan (Part 4): Roads

I love to drive, and I love to drive fast. As a matter of fact, every automobile I’ve owned (with only a few exceptions) has been taken up to 100mph at least once. It’s just a thing I do.

Have you ever driven on a freshly paved road? Remember when in the movie “Cars” they drove around on a freshly re-paved road and loved it? That’s the kind of driving surface that cries out for speed! I love it.

And then there was Pakistan.

Rough Roads

Honestly, the roads in Pakistan were not as bad as some others on which I’ve driven (or ridden). The roads in Zimbabwe were pretty darn rough. They were so rough that guys would sit on the side of the road with air compressors and offer to air up your tires for a dollar. The roads were so bad that your tires would lose pressure!

Then there are also the roads where I live in middle Georgia. The paved roads are just fine; it’s the DIRT roads that are sometimes a challenge. There are a lot of dirt roads in middle Georgia.

However, in Pakistan the roads, on average, were not capable of sustaining any kind of speed. The only time that was possible was when one traveled on the main highway between major cities. That was as nice as a modern American highway.

Rule-less Roads

But it wasn’t the roughness or the smoothness of the Pakistani roads that stuck in my mind. No, what contributed to my PTSD was the fact that there are NO RULES!

Oh, I know what you are probably thinking. You think that I’m overreacting. You think that it’s only because I’m used to the rules of the road in my own country, that there are rules, but I was not culturally sensitive to them.

And you would be wrong. Sorry.

Look, the only – and I mean ONLY – rule I observed over the many hours my life was put in danger was that there were two directions. In other words, when you want to go somewhere in Pakistan, you go in that direction. When you are going in that direction, you and all the other people traveling in that direction are to use only one side of the road. All the people going in a different direction are to use the other side of the road. That’s it!

Oh, wait… I just thought of another one. My bad.

The only other rule has to do with who has the right of way. It’s pretty simple, though. The bigger the vehicle is the more right of way it has. It’s called the “Get out of the way or die!” rule.

Only Guidelines

Now, remind me … did I say that there were essentially only two rules of the road in Pakistan? I’m sorry for misleading you. Actually, there are no rules – they are only guidelines.

Remember how I said that you only need to stay on one side of the road? That’s not entirely true. You know those lines we have in the middle of roads that separate lanes? Not in Pakistan. No, all you have is a road. YOU decide where it is on the road you want to be, depending on who is in front of you.

Here in America, we have rules regarding when it is safe to pass another vehicle. One of the rules of which you might be familiar is “never pass when there is a double yellow line.” Not in Pakistan. When someone is slowing you down, just pass them … even if traffic is coming in the opposite direction. I mean, they will move over into the dirt when they see you coming, so do what you need to do!

Something Strange

But there is something strange about the differences between Pakistani driving and, let’s say, the way people drive in a large American city.

For example, when I drive through cities like Nashville, Chattanooga, Augusta, and Atlanta, what I see are multiple lanes of organized and heavily regulated traffic. Here there are clearly delineated lanes, traffic lights and signs, and even plenty of law enforcement to keep a watch on things.

Pakistan vs. Atlanta, GA

When I traveled on the roads of Pakistan, there were no lines, no regulations, very little law enforcement, and hardly any street/traffic lights or signs.

Yet, the whole time I was in Pakistan – no joke – I never witnessed a single accident. Not one!

THAT should make a person question a lot of things, right?

Travel down any American highway and you will see accidents all the time. Even in the most orderly and regulated settings, somebody is going to do something stupid and crash. And even if you don’t witness cars having a wreck, let somebody cut another person off and you WILL see fingers raised and maybe a little road rage.

Travel in Pakistan and you will see people weaving in and out, cutting others off, driving aggressively and pushing themselves into flow, yet you will never see anyone flipping another off or hear anyone yelling obscenities. No, what you will see is mutual respect, acceptance, understanding, and this attitude of “it’s just the way things are, so don’t get your panties in a wad.”

With all our rules, American drivers are less mature than those with no rules or regulations. Strange.

A Powerful Lesson

So, I think there is a powerful lesson to learn from all this talk about traffic. It has to do with the rules and regulations that are constantly pushed upon us and down our throats.

It’s not only America, but in most all Western nations there is this idea that the government knows best. They treat all us citizens as children, not adults, who need to have our hands held through every facet of life, especially when driving.

One of the greatest examples of this is the traffic camera. Because the government (local and otherwise) cannot trust us to drive responsibly, they put of cameras that check our speed, watch us at intersections, and generally track us wherever we go. It’s like, “I’m giving you rules to show you what you’re allowed to do, but I’m not going to trust you to make the right decisions.”

People who are treated like children will act like children.

But in Pakistan, where there are literally no lines, no lanes, no signs, no lights, and no cameras, the ones treated like responsible adults act like responsible adults – and even in the most dangerous traffic don’t have wrecks.

So, consider the following scriptures. One is from the Old Testament, while the other is from the New Testament (quoting the one from the OT).

But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. – Jeremiah 31:33
For this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: – Hebrews 8:10

Where legalism exists, the one subject to the rules and regulations rarely makes the issues of right and wrong a matter of the heart. No, the primary response to legalism is the temptation to push the limits and/or rebel against the authority. This is why so many people who grow up in overly strict religious environments go hog wild when they get out on their own.

Yet, when people are taught what is right and wrong and eventually trusted to make the right decisions as responsible, mature adults, the “law in the heart” guides even when the cameras are missing.

Your thoughts?

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Christian Maturity, General Observations, legalism, Pakistan, places

Why Some People Are Legalists

Every once in a while I think it is important for me to get back to the whole reason I started this blog: legalism within the Church. There are plenty of other people talking about Bruce Jenner, don’t you think?

In the following article I will attempt to:

  • define legalism, and then
  • give five possible reasons one might want to become, or remain, a legalist.

Defining Legalism

Before we look at why a person would want to be a legalist, let’s make sure we understand what legalism actually is. Below are a couple of good definitions.

The first one is from GotQuestions.org (which I recommend). I would advise reading the whole piece on their website. The following is an excerpt:

The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible. It is a term Christians use to describe a doctrinal position emphasizing a system of rules and regulations for achieving both salvation and spiritual growth. Legalists believe in and demand a strict literal adherence to rules and regulations. Doctrinally, it is a position essentially opposed to grace. Those who hold a legalistic position often fail to see the real purpose for law, especially the purpose of the Old Testament law of Moses, which is to be our “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

The second definition can actually be found on Wikipedia. Believe it or not, it is a pretty in-depth article. Again, here is portion:

Legalism, in Christian theology, is a sometimes-pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law over the spirit. Legalism is alleged against any view that obedience to law, not faith in God’s grace, is the pre-eminent principle of redemption…Legalism refers to any doctrine which states salvation comes strictly from adherence to the law. It can be thought of as a works-based religion. 

But to be fair, most people that I would label legalists do not believe salvation is earned by works of any kind (at least if they’re Baptists). No, the vast majority of legalists to which I refer (and to which I used to belong) use a system of rules and regulations to determine spirituality, spiritual growth, and favor with God and other believers.

Legalists believe, as a whole, in the redemptive work of the cross, but set a universal standard which defines holiness for all who claim Christ, regardless of cultural or societal considerations. To the legalist, anyone who behaves or believes differently than his perceived standards must not be “right with God.

So, what would make a person want to be, or remain, a legalist? The following five reasons are ones which I have observed throughout the years.

5 Reasons for Being a Legalist

1) Some people don’t know any different.

When I was growing up, I did not know anything different than what I was exposed to in our small churches, missionary conferences, revivals, or Christian schools. Even though I believe that most of what I was taught was doctrinally sound, I was not allowed to examine different viewpoints, even those of other Baptists (specifically if they were anything other than “Independent, Fundamental,” etc.) Many are still in this situation. Tragically, they are content with their ignorance. They refuse to consider the fact that they may be wrong on a particular point.

Even when Scripture is plain and simple, because of the secluded nature of certain groups, legalists would rather stick their heads in the sand than risk being wrong. Being wrong might make someone else, even another denomination, right about something. Heaven forbid!

2) Some came from an unholy lifestyle and now seek to redeem themselves (or their consciences).

Some people are so ashamed of their past that they go overboard in trying to live a life of holiness. They see in their past a link between so-called “worldly activities” and their fall into depravity. In an effort to show they are no longer the person they used to be, and in order to avoid temptation, they strictly avoid certain activities deemed “worldly.” Sadly, even though they mean well, they project their own weaknesses onto others, therefore expecting others to abide by the same level of austere living or be seen as worldly. However, in many cases, appearances are not what they seem. The very ones who are so legalistic in some areas of life wind up being the ones with the biggest weakness in that area. Their overbearing attitudes, in many cases, may only be the big doors hiding skeletons in their closet.

3) Some desire to be controlled, to be told what to do.

As strange as it may sound, some people don’t like to think for themselves, nor do they like being responsible for their own choices. It is sort of like people whom I have seen that were once under a totalitarian government: when they no longer had a dictatorial system telling them what to do, they either lost all control or had no motivation to do any good.

Legalistic churches provide the lazy or immature Christian a list of “do’s and don’ts” so that he/she doesn’t have to search the Scripture for guidance. It is much easier this way. If the pastor says something is wrong and that God would not approve, then that’s it – end of discussion. Having a list is safe and doesn’t require much thought. Essentially, the legalist would rather be a marionette than mature.

4) Some may want to control others.

Freedom is dangerous. Freedom allows for movement and change. Freedom allows for the individual to be led by God in a specific direction that may or may not be God’s will for another. Freedom takes power away from those who would want to control others for their own edification or gratification. On the other hand, legalism keeps the sheep under strict control by encouraging tattling and fear of being ostracized.

There are pastors, well-intended men, who would rather their people live under a specific set of guidelines than question long-held, man-made traditions. These leaders are afraid to lose their congregations to the world, but also to other churches. They may even find comfort in controlling others due to their own inadequacies. Much like emperors and dictators, they manipulate weak Christians in order to maintain their little kingdoms. Rarely do they admit weakness and often micro-manage every aspect of ministry. Legalistic leaders have to be in control.

5) Some people are more afraid of God than in love with Him.

So many people that I have known (and used to be like) were more afraid of losing their relational standing with God than anything else. Legalism tends to give some the assurance that God is pleased with them.

I wonder how it really was for Enoch as he walked with God. Many modern preachers are quick to make the application of Enoch’s walk with God to the way we act in this world, but they make little of the relationship implied by the narrative (Genesis 5:24). In reality, very few lists would even be needed if one had an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

angry godTo the legalist, God is not a friend: He doesn’t laugh…He speaks in Old English…and He holds a grudge because of what it took to buy the sinner’s salvation. When one thinks of God as always looking for an opportunity to send judgment, then being legalistic is the safest way to go. No one wants to be hit with a lightning bolt, you understand.

So, are you a legalist? Why, or why not? Are there any reasons I missed?

9 Comments

Filed under baptist, legalism

Why Some People Are Legalists

Every once in a while I think it is important for me to get back to the whole reason I started this blog: legalism within the Church. There are plenty of other people talking about Bruce Jenner, don’t you think?

In the following article I will attempt to:

  • define legalism, and then
  • give five possible reasons one might want to become, or remain, a legalist.

Defining Legalism

Before we look at why a person would want to be a legalist, let’s make sure we understand what legalism actually is. Below are a couple of good definitions.

The first one is from GotQuestions.org (which I recommend). I would advise reading the whole piece on their website. The following is an excerpt:

The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible. It is a term Christians use to describe a doctrinal position emphasizing a system of rules and regulations for achieving both salvation and spiritual growth. Legalists believe in and demand a strict literal adherence to rules and regulations. Doctrinally, it is a position essentially opposed to grace. Those who hold a legalistic position often fail to see the real purpose for law, especially the purpose of the Old Testament law of Moses, which is to be our “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

The second definition can actually be found on Wikipedia. Believe it or not, it is a pretty in-depth article. Again, here is portion:

Legalism, in Christian theology, is a sometimes-pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law over the spirit. Legalism is alleged against any view that obedience to law, not faith in God’s grace, is the pre-eminent principle of redemption…Legalism refers to any doctrine which states salvation comes strictly from adherence to the law. It can be thought of as a works-based religion. 

But to be fair, most people that I would label legalists do not believe salvation is earned by works of any kind (at least if they’re Baptists). No, the vast majority of legalists to which I refer (and to which I used to belong) use a system of rules and regulations to determine spirituality, spiritual growth, and favor with God and other believers.

Legalists believe, as a whole, in the redemptive work of the cross, but set a universal standard which defines holiness for all who claim Christ, regardless of cultural or societal considerations. To the legalist, anyone who behaves or believes differently than his perceived standards must not be “right with God.

So, what would make a person want to be, or remain, a legalist? The following five reasons are ones which I have observed throughout the years.

5 Reasons for Being a Legalist

1) Some people don’t know any different.

When I was growing up, I did not know anything different than what I was exposed to in our small churches, missionary conferences, revivals, or Christian schools. Even though I believe that most of what I was taught was doctrinally sound, I was not allowed to examine different viewpoints, even those of other Baptists (specifically if they were anything other than “Independent, Fundamental,” etc.) Many are still in this situation. Tragically, they are content with their ignorance. They refuse to consider the fact that they may be wrong on a particular point.

Even when Scripture is plain and simple, because of the secluded nature of certain groups, legalists would rather stick their heads in the sand than risk being wrong. Being wrong might make someone else, even another denomination, right about something. Heaven forbid!

2) Some came from an unholy lifestyle and now seek to redeem themselves (or their consciences).

Some people are so ashamed of their past that they go overboard in trying to live a life of holiness. They see in their past a link between so-called “worldly activities” and their fall into depravity. In an effort to show they are no longer the person they used to be, and in order to avoid temptation, they strictly avoid certain activities deemed “worldly.” Sadly, even though they mean well, they project their own weaknesses onto others, therefore expecting others to abide by the same level of austere living or be seen as worldly. However, in many cases, appearances are not what they seem. The very ones who are so legalistic in some areas of life wind up being the ones with the biggest weakness in that area. Their overbearing attitudes, in many cases, may only be the big doors hiding skeletons in their closet.

3) Some desire to be controlled, to be told what to do.

As strange as it may sound, some people don’t like to think for themselves, nor do they like being responsible for their own choices. It is sort of like people whom I have seen that were once under a totalitarian government: when they no longer had a dictatorial system telling them what to do, they either lost all control or had no motivation to do any good.

Legalistic churches provide the lazy or immature Christian a list of “do’s and don’ts” so that he/she doesn’t have to search the Scripture for guidance. It is much easier this way. If the pastor says something is wrong and that God would not approve, then that’s it – end of discussion. Having a list is safe and doesn’t require much thought. Essentially, the legalist would rather be a marionette than mature.

4) Some may want to control others.

Freedom is dangerous. Freedom allows for movement and change. Freedom allows for the individual to be led by God in a specific direction that may or may not be God’s will for another. Freedom takes power away from those who would want to control others for their own edification or gratification. On the other hand, legalism keeps the sheep under strict control by encouraging tattling and fear of being ostracized.

There are pastors, well-intended men, who would rather their people live under a specific set of guidelines than question long-held, man-made traditions. These leaders are afraid to lose their congregations to the world, but also to other churches. They may even find comfort in controlling others due to their own inadequacies. Much like emperors and dictators, they manipulate weak Christians in order to maintain their little kingdoms. Rarely do they admit weakness and often micro-manage every aspect of ministry. Legalistic leaders have to be in control.

5) Some people are more afraid of God than in love with Him.

So many people that I have known (and used to be like) were more afraid of losing their relational standing with God than anything else. Legalism tends to give some the assurance that God is pleased with them.

I wonder how it really was for Enoch as he walked with God. Many modern preachers are quick to make the application of Enoch’s walk with God to the way we act in this world, but they make little of the relationship implied by the narrative (Genesis 5:24). In reality, very few lists would even be needed if one had an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

angry godTo the legalist, God is not a friend: He doesn’t laugh…He speaks in Old English…and He holds a grudge because of what it took to buy the sinner’s salvation. When one thinks of God as always looking for an opportunity to send judgment, then being legalistic is the safest way to go. No one wants to be hit with a lightning bolt, you understand.

So, are you a legalist? Why, or why not? Are there any reasons I missed?

9 Comments

Filed under baptist, legalism