So last year I wrote a blog about legalism. You know, the thing that injects you with fear, effectively killing all of the love that once sustained your heart. The thing that turns your love relationship with God into a set of rules that you have to follow in order to appease Him and relieve your guilt. The blog I wrote centered around a meme I saw of an “oversaved” Christian who repented after entering the Exit door at Walmart. And it was funny, in a tragic way, because it was an accurate depiction of a long period of time in my spiritual life. I literally repented after walking in the wrong door or not following the instructions on how to cook a TV dinner. I would yell at my dad every time he would walk in the wrong door and act like he was committing a felony. And every little thought I had was wrong, somehow, because it wasn’t always about God. OH. And I listened to a lot more metal screaming music than I listened to contemporary Christian, and I thought that was somehow a sin too. (Glad we resolved that issue… Dear lord…)
It was an awfully stupid way to live. And I never felt loved. I felt like I was working toward a goal I could never reach, but one I could never give up on. Earning the approval of God by following rules. That is called legalism and Jesus hates it. Because He desires mercy, not sacrifice. (Matthew 9:13)
All He ever wanted was my heart.
But I was so happy this past weekend, because I got to watch the sequel to the Tragedy of the Wrong Walmart Door.
My boyfriend lives five and a half hours from me. So we don’t see each other as often as we would like. But when we do, it’s the most glorious thing. And we have way too much fun grocery shopping and riding in the carts and fighting in the aisles and engaging in PDA while picking out gluten free pretzels. And this isn’t a boyfriend brag blog, because that is reserved for like, Man Crush Mondays and stuff, BUT he is lovely and he does have this thing for going well out of his way to help other people. It confuses my friends a lot when they witness it, but I think they are all in love with him because of it. So a couple nights ago, after about the millionth Walmart run that week, we walked out into that place by the doors where all the carts go and also the Redbox and stuff. Except, people are lazy, and there were about eight carts abandoned in the middle instead of pushed up in the lines where they were supposed to be.
So Jordan’s like, “Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna be good people.”
So I’m like, “Okay.”
So then we started turning the carts around pushing them into the lines. And he started offering carts to people when they walked in and stuff. It was nice. It actually made me really happy.
So then he took my hand and we walked out. And a few moments after, I realized that we had walked out through the Enter door. And I didn’t even have a fit about it. And I think that was when I tangibly grasped what Jesus was talking about. I’m pretty sure I told Jordan that this was going to be a blog within three seconds of walking out the door.
In Matthew 23, Jesus said to the Pharisees, who were the legalistic and self-righteous God-appeasers such as myself, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”
That’s a hard thing to come to terms with. They were trying their absolute hardest to cross their t’s and dot their i’s, and it still wasn’t good enough. I think the problem was that they thought they could be good enough. They thought God would be impressed with their show. But their hearts were far from him. They were in love with making themselves feel as if they were on God’s good side, not actually in love with Him and certainly not interested in doing what was right.
So for example. The Walmart employees. Do you really think they were impressed with me making a point of always going through the right door and following their rules? I doubt it. But I guarantee that they were super happy about us being good people and fixing the carts. And I guarantee they did not care at all about what door we went through afterwards. The guy who was collecting in the carts in the parking lot was all, “Yo, nice car, man!” when we walked to his vehicle. So we got on his good side, at least.
And I guarantee that God doesn’t care half as much about me following rules legalistically as He does about where my heart is. He wants my actions to be outpourings of my heart as I seek to be more like Him and as I fall more in love with His character. And that matters more than anything.
And thus concludes the little allegory that taught me what it looks like to have your heart in the right place when acting in obedience on a much larger scale and another chapter in the endless story of God redeeming every little piece of my heart.