You’ve left legalism. Now what?
“I’m so relieved”, she told me through tears over a Panera salad. “But at the same time, I feel displaced. I’m not even sure I know what I believe anymore.”
Thus goes the opening to a conversation I’ve had over and over again since Leaving Legalism was published.
Always varying in context and details, but invariably emotionally charged, the stories that have been relayed to me by readers are heartbreaking, poignant, and never easy to hear. I feel I’m carrying a weight and a burden for so many who have left legalism, but it’s a burden I’ll gladly bear for the sake of the gospel. For the sake of reminding us all of what Jesus did for each and every one of us. I’m praying for you.
Most of those stories end with a giant question mark. Now what? I left legalism, but I am lost. What’s next?
READING LEAVING LEGALISM IS A SOLID PLACE TO START.
If you haven’t read Leaving Legalism, start there. I wrote it as a guide to help you find a path back to Jesus. It might be hard to read and digest, and the questions at the end of each chapter are designed to get you to rip the band-aid off the wounds and allow the light to heal them. It won’t be easy, but it will be very, very good. And a great place to begin.
GETTING COUNSELING IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS.
I am also going to toss the idea of getting some legitimate counseling out to you. So many of us were taught that counseling or therapy is only for the really messed-up, but not for the super spiritual. I’m here to tell you: That’s a load of garbage. Know what’s really messed-up? A religious system that measures our spirituality by our behavior and not by the righteousness of Christ. If you need counseling to process all of that religious behaviorism, then be sure you get it. Don’t let anyone stop you. Ask someone in your church if they know of a solid counselor or therapist they could recommend.
FINDING A COMMUNITY THAT FOLLOWS CHRIST ALONE IS IMPORTANT.
“One of the best things my wife and I did after leaving our former church was find a church where the gospel was held in high regard and freedom in Christ taught without fear.
Honestly, though, we second-guessed ourselves a lot. What if this church turns out to be just as legalistic as the last?”
Finding a church community that follows Christ and Christ alone is an extremely important step. And if within that church leadership there is someone who can smell legalism from a mile back and offer you the freedom to land, heal, and grow in their church, then that’s a very good place to be.
No church will be perfect; I trust you know that already. But a church led by transparency, by men and women who are the “chief confessors”*, who lead with love and grace and mercy . . . there is a church that can offer you an ER, triage, an ICU, and a recovery floor.
GRACE GOES BOTH WAYS.
Give yourself grace. Lots and lots of grace. For the choices you made in the past, for the way you treated other brothers and sisters in Christ, for the amount of time it may take for you to heal from all of the collateral damage.
And then turn to give grace to those who hurt you.
That’s easier said than done, no? For me, yes. We were the walking wounded, and our wounds weren’t entirely self-inflicted. We had been gossiped about, stabbed in the back during elders’ meetings, pushed out of social situations, and effectively shunned. And we helped start the church.
It was a long time before I wasn’t angry, and that’s okay, too. There was grace for my anger and the Holy Spirit was faithfully leading me out of that sinful heart-set. It took years (literally, five years), but God had taught me that because He loved me so completely, I could turn and love those who had filleted me and my family.
So now what? Now rest. And if you’ve read the end of Leaving Legalism, you know:
Breathe in, breathe out, and move on.
I’ll have more posts about taking the next steps after walking out of legalism in the weeks to come, so be sure to join the newsletter below.
*chief confessors take the command to confess sins seriously, and lead the congregation by their own confessions first