Friday, April 27, 2007

WHAT LEGALISM DID TO OUR MARRIAGE

I said I would continue my testimony and surprise! I'm actually doing it. When I tell people that legalism destroys marriage and was seriously affecting ours, I'm usually asked what I mean. In other words, what exactly happened as a result of living under the law instead of in the freedom of the Spirit. I think it's a good question and I'm hoping that writing here will help me have a better answer next time this question comes up.

I think one of the main problem we had was a performance mentality. We had very specific rules about what a husband should do and what a wife should do. If Aaron didn't live up to this standard, there was very little mercy from me. This worked both ways. We were also judging ourselves constantly as failures as well. I suppose this came from the subtle understanding that the main purpose of being in relationship with God was to have sin revealed so we could work harder. Just as this damages intimacy with God, it damaged intimacy in our marriage when we saw our primary role in each other's lives as one of accountability and confronting sin. My performance as a child of God was constantly falling short, and so was my performance as a wife. I often said things like 'it would be better for you if I died so you could marry a godlier wife and mother for your children'. Aaron spent his fair share of time despairing of ever being a godly husband and father. I think it's obvious that in an environment like this love is not going to grow--love becomes almost irrelevant.

Another issue connected to this performance mindset is fear of man. I've noticed there is often a connection in Scripture between legalism and seeking approval of men (see Gal. 1:10,2:12). With fear of man coming into play, our failures become even heavier burdens. Not only were we concerned with how we failed, but we were very concerned with how it would all look to others. We were also constantly thinking we would be pulled from ministry because of our failure to conform. We often critiqued each other after spending time with people whose opinions mattered to us. We piled on more guilt and fear. Again, not exactly loving...

Next I would have to say anger and bitterness came into play. The anger we're still dealing with. This anger could come at any time for any reason because inside we were angry most of the time. Angry with ourselves for sinning, angry with each other for sinning, angry with God for putting such impossible law on us. Of course, he did the exact opposite, sending his own Son to give his life for our freedom from the law, sin, death, and curse. But we lost sight of this. Oh we knew the gospel very well and loved it, but we didn't think it had any power to bring true freedom here on earth while in the flesh. We thought the Holy Spirit was only there to convict us of sin, not to fill us with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. I'm saying we thought these things but of course we were completely unaware of the lies we were believing. That's what gave them such power over us and made them able to coax us into giving up our freedom and joy in exchange for a yoke of slavery.

I would have to say that the worst part of all this was just feeling constantly overwhelmed. We were always in survival mode, just trying to make it one more day. I'm not normally a yeller or one to say really mean things to my husband, but over the past year I can remember more than one instance of me screaming (and I mean at the top of my lungs) I hate you I hate you!!! I was so overwhelmed with my life that I couldn't handle any more interrogation and I snapped. I believe every family has at least one person who will eventually break under this kind of pressure (husband, wife, or child)-- the weight of the law and the condemnation it brings is terrible. The law is meant to bring us to Christ to become free, so when as believers we go back to the law there is no longer any hope left for us. If Christ can't free us, nothing can! This is the message of Galatians. We must never never go back to law, and if we do we should come running back to grace as soon as we see what we've done.

As a result of God revealing truth to me and just loving me, I'm doing much better now. I think I've turned an important corner and I'm slowly experiencing far more joy, peace, and faith. As a matter of fact, I'm not spending all my time studying about legalism anymore, but have really been excited to learn more about healing and the Kingdom. There's a whole world I've never really explored and God is looking bigger, better, yet closer to me all the time. Oh, and our marriage is much happier as well. We are getting to know each other again and encouraging each other to be who God is calling us to be. In fact we're off to Williamsburg, VA tomorrow morning for a few nights away ALONE! It's about a 5 hour drive so bring on the sermons...definitely Andrew's recent one on healing.

21 comments:

oljonnyhurd said...

I'd be interested to hear what got you to that point of legalism and that leading to the evident accrimony. I have never felt that kind of pressure in my marriage. Maybe a lack of passion but never hostility. Please elaborate in layman's terms.

jul said...

I suppose I was deliberately general so as not to seem that I was blaming anyone. We were in a church that taught very specific "application of the Bible". In other words, there were rules, though of course they weren't called rules. And we were encouraged to make new rules for ourselves to become holier and the husband was responsible as head of the house to make rules for the rest of his family. Of course there are the normal rules such as read your Bible and pray every day, and then there were more specific ones such as what it looks like for a wife to submit to her husband (do everything according to his desire, cook, clean, have babies, homeschool, have sex a lot, there were even specific rules about what I could wear actually written down and widely distributed). I'm actually uncomfortable saying it this plainly and I suppose you could say this is subjective as the leadership there would say these were not rules but guidelines or principles, but I believe I got the point: CONFORM. This puts an amazing amount of pressure on people, especially if you don't naturally fit the mold, which I never did. It makes you angry, and I'm sure when you see what the husband's role is in this scenario you can understand where hostility might develop ( he began to act like king of the house a bit hehe thinking that his wishes were my commands). I'm not angry with the church anymore, God has brought me out of bitterness and while allowing me to unlearn much of the bad stuff I'm beginning to see all the good. I learned many good things as well and we're still close friends with people who go there and respect and pray for the pastors we got to know and love there. We were there almost 8 years after all, and actually left in response to God calling us out. It wasn't until we were in the process of leaving that we really saw any of these issues clearly.

Viscountess said...

Oh man does my heart ache as I read this story because I have seen it over and over. I praise the Lord that you and your husband got out before you ended up divorcing. It's so ironic that the churches most opposed to divorce set up situations that end up leading families in that direction, and then they stand and point rather than help to heal.

In the woes to the Pharisees:"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you--but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger." Mstthew 23:2-4

jul said...

Great verse Coralie. It really captures the essence of what leaders who (even unknowingly) lead their people into legalism. But since we believe we are called to 'full time' ministry for lack of a better term, I think this experience has been invaluable.

Joel Brueseke - Grace Roots said...

Jul,

Reading through your blog I found this post that I definitely relate to! I think my situation was a little different, but the root of it was the same. I think my marriage would have been destroyed, if not for the intervention of the truth of God's grace. And the funny thing was, I was teaching and preaching grace, but at the same time trying to make my marriage work by law and principles! If you're interested, I blogged about it back in February (warning: it's somewhat lengthy). :)
http://blog.graceroots.org/2007/02/kings-of-wild-frontier.html

Anonymous said...

Hi,please all pray for me.. I think Im a legalist too.. Im not married, but it's hard..yes,I feel the same about surviving..:) But I feel somehow what I do is from the Lord..so it's hard to give up some interdictions,for example, because I feel guilty..

I was not such a legalist when I first knew Jesus,but now I am.

So please pray for me. My name is Andreea. This is my email: givemewingstfly@yahoo.com. Anyone who wants to write to me ,to help me can write here.

Thank you. Jesus bless you.

God Fearing Women said...

I am just learning more about what Legalism is amoung Christians. The Lord has opened my eyes to see that through my husband I have fallen into to the legalism trap. The only thing is my husband's heart is hardened and I don't know if this marriage will last. Iam going to do my best to do right for the Lord dispite my husband even if it means the marriage will end. I have judged others wrongly by my husbands influance. This is not an excuse for how I have judged others. I have been wondering why I have lost the joy I once had in the Lord before we married. I Priase the Lord that he opened you and your wifes eyes to the Legalism trap you were in. It will take a mircal from God to open my husbands eyes to this legalism trap. Here is a great atrical about legalism in Chirstians.http://www.biblebelievers.com/Morton_legalism-liberty.html

jul said...

Hi God Fearing Women, welcome! Just to let you know, I'm a woman too... I'm glad to hear you're learing about grace and I recommend checking out more teaching which you can find linked on my blog or gracestream tv. Maybe your husband would be interested too, you never know. A great starting book is Grace Walk by Steve McVey.

I hope God saves your marriage, I know he can and loves to do it! It would definately be very difficult for two people to be married when one is determined to live under law and the other grace, however, God works in our hearts in different ways and at different times. Please feel free to e-mail me if you ever want to talk more or ask me more questions. Thanks for the link, I will definately check it out! God bless!

Tashie said...

How wonderful you got out of "legalism jail" before it ate you up!

Legalism DID destroy my marriage. My husband was very legalistic (all the while emphatically denying it) and always measuring my performance. He would refuse to do things I wanted at times(e.g. go to the movies) because I had "not behaved well enough". I would also end up screaming "I hate you!!" at him. This would make him even more critical, which would lead me to more despair, more poor behaviour, and it was a continued downward spiral......
I was always ashamed and schocked at my own behaviour and blaming myself for everything that was wrong (which he also did). I am not normally a yeller or screamer.

I felt sick a lot - religiosity gives me a bad feeling in my stomach - and really thought I would die.

So that is now bad legalism is - it kills and destroys as much as things like adultery, only usually much more slowly.

When I first heard the message of grace I wanted to shout "YES!!" because I think I had always known it in my heart. Praise God for getting this message out to the captives!

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

great great post.
Did you ever hear Charlie Peacock? He was singing from the man's angle with "Big Man's hat", strutting around with these ideas of what you are...and it crashes around other people....until discovering grace.....
Perhaps all the contemporary musicians....well they're practically outta date...but Charlie Michael W Smith Stephen curtis chapman WhiteHeart were singing a lot of breakdown songs then discovering the love of Jesus. perhaps it is the singers and muzos that go first as in the praise tribe Judah

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

followupcomments

Jacqueline Hadley said...

So true. Legalism nearly killed me in the past: my own and the imposition of it by religious leaders. Yes, I can relate to the church abuse you suffered as well. I was in a denomination that aided in me being a religious doormat and didn't understand God's grace for a long time. Thank God He brought us all out. Check out my blog if you want: www.anointedforthefuture.blogspot.com

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Jul,
Thanks for all your posts on legalism. We can truly relate! Praise God that your family was brought out of this! Thanks for using your blog to help others find freedom!
Bethany

Tony Uren said...

The Christian attitde to sex is legalistic from start to finish.
How anyone is supposed to pretend that they have no sex drive is beyond me.
I thought Holiness was something to do with wholesomeness,not some system that just rips you apart for Gods pleasure.
I used to bother with jesus,he never bothered about me,just as long as I felt guilty about being human and witnessed to others for him that is all he wanted.
Im sick of the bulls it surrounding jesus.
Go on tell me how sinful I am,I dont care anymore the jew god can go screw himself instead of me for a change.

jul said...

Hi Tony, thanks for your comment. If I replace your god and jesus with religion then I can say I feel exactly the same way. I guess in my mind God/Jesus is NOT synonynous with religion and I now that religion is out of the picture I only feel his love for me. Being made to guilty and sinful all the time is one of the worst things I've personally ever experienced so I hope you don't still feel like that. Maybe in time you will be able to conceive of a God who loves you and likes you without any conditions, one who isn't in it to move your puppet strings but who just wants to hang out with you and have a little conversation.

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

http://080808onnowto.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/clueless-yet-willingby-frances-n-mygene.html

Ang719 said...

My husband has started a messianic synagogue and i have two babies under two. Our marriage and my self worth is almost gone. See I never bought into all the legalism, but he has. He is so spirituality blind that it will take an act of God to wake him up. All he says isb Im such an evil person a horrible wife and bad mother. Constant condemnation and criticism. I thought it was me Im like God why cant i be better why cant i change. But now i see. Butbi cant make him see. The emotional spiritual abuse i have suffered from this has been devastating to me and it will be my ch children if God doesnt intervene. My husband just told me tonight that he has dated lots of women and not one of them is like me. Im ab horrible human being. Not only does he stab me with his judgments and words but he tells all of my short comings. Now his family talks about them the ministry. He's made enemies of everyone in my life. Then thing is the things he tells people is based on a false perception no mattee how hard i try or what i change he will always see this ugly evil human being. Im at my wits end.

jul said...

So sorry for all you're going through. Please feel free to email me if you'd like to talk. <3

Ang719 said...

Thank you.

LoniTrue said...

This was so spot on that I read this wishfully imagining it was my future self advising my current self.

My question though is should I share this with my husband? I don't think he will be very affected by it?

jul said...

I think you should if you want to :) Maybe erase your comment if you do... or copy and paste my post into an email if you like.