Monday, February 1, 2016
Lawlessness is also a teacher.
The legalist certainly has come to have a bad reputation. Some of it, mind you, is well earned but some of it is bereft of substance. You see we idealize and sentimentalize the idea of freedom from any and all law. We dream of the kind of society in which people are perfectly free to do as they desire, one in which there is no condemnation even for wrong. It the false and misleading dream of a world where children grow up and decide upon what is right without benefit of parental leadership or even the instruction of the conscience. In this make believe world, laws are few and personal freedom is abundant yet at the same time we fantasize that this would lead to less crime, less violence, less fear but more morality, more virtue, and more responsibility.
There is no slur more biting than to be named a legalist, at least in church circles. Those who stifle creativity and progress by their slavish devotion to rules and regulations are typically derided as arrogant, prudish, hawkish, and self-absorbed. Yet the truth is that these faults and failings are much more likely to be found among the lawless, those who disdain the rule of law, and who believe that unless one want's to do the right nothing should compel them.
In reality lawlessness is the ultimate legalism. It refuses to tolerate anything that it finds repugnant. It insists that no one should be forced to tolerate ideas with which they do not agree nor should the minority be protected from the intolerance of the majority. So there is no one more evil in our culture than the person who places faith above personal expression and who rejects that which the majority has decided is right and, indeed, the only path.
Have you ever noticed that those most against smoking tobacco seem pretty positive about smoking marijuana? Have you ever noticed that those who insist that you must do more than tolerate but cater to those whose lifestyles and values you object to refuse to tolerate you? Have you ever noticed that the only sacred freedom is self-expression and self-definition -- that all others may be abridged if the majority deems it -- even freedom of speech? Have you ever noticed that those who deviate from that which has historically been held as truth refuse to give history even a second glance against the moral outrage of the moment?
Legalism teaches much of which we ought to be object but lawlessness is not without its own errors that must and ought to be exposed and condemned. Its sham of objectivity cannot erase how subjective modern judgment can be. Its truth tied to the moment is the ultimate in captivity and blindness. The legalist can and often is unduly harsh and difficult but the lawless ultimately cares little except about self. If forced to choose, I would always choose the legalist over any form of self-indulgent freedom that presumes objectivity, neutrality, and flexibility. What about you?