I thought I was perfect, well in comparison to my peers at my church. Involved in many things in the church: Pathfinders, Ushering, Children’s Ministries, Youth Choir, Sabbath School, and the list goes on. Since I was the only kid in my Sabbath School class who actually read the Sabbath School lesson, I would sometimes lead out in the Sabbath School class. I was put up on a high pedestal. I brought my Bible and lesson with me to church every Sabbath, paid my offering, and I came ON TIME to Sabbath School…for the most part. Can’t nobody tell me nothing about anything. I would always give feedback to the lesson, sometimes getting into arguments with the peers. I had it made….well I thought.
What many people did not know about me at that time was, I had a legalistic mindset at that time. I felt that my ticket to being saved into the kingdom of heaven depended on my works. I was totally against jewelry, tattoos, secular music, and even hanging with the “sinners and unbelievers.” I would tell my peers that they would go to hell for doing such things. I was someone everyone loved to dread when they see me.
I was miserable, when I would see some of my peers with a baby bump or hear about new pregnancies, I would have given a side eye or even said “that serves them right.” The side eye was real, seeing others wear jewelry and wondering if they have gone astray from the church. I was ridiculous. It was so bad that I didn’t want to associate myself with peers who have a faith issue with God or even the non-SDAs unless if I attempted to convert them.I only had a select few of friends would dealt with me. I didn’t have much friends during this time, but I didn’t care since I felt that if they are not about Jesus, I’m not about them.
I was exposed to many people who I thought were spiritual, so I was able to feed off from them. Ironically, my parents were not legalistic. It became a little more intense when I began my undergrad journey. I became more dependent on other people’s spirituality than Christ. I remember one time I became vegetarian because I thought that in order for me to be saved was to refrain from eating meats and my job was to win my family over to vegetarianism…Aaaaaaaand that didn’t work at all. I eventually became caught up in attending worship services watching nearly all of G.Craig Lewis’ “The Truth Behind Series” and downgrading other “wolves in sheep skins”. I even ditched my NIV Bible because of what was being said about it promoting the “Doctrine of Devils”….don’t ask…There was a time when I was anti-Christian Rap. I also thought that I was “getting ready for Christ’s second coming” by watching and listening scare tactics about the end of times and what the government is up to. This was during my Sophomore/Junior year in undergrad. There was even a time that I was somewhat strict and conservative with my choice for a church.
In other words, I was super closed minded…
I eventually felt overwhelmed with living up to other people’s standards and not God’s. By this time, I realized that I was majoring in minors. Here I am focusing on health reform, social reform, dress reform, moral reform, but I wasn’t focusing on spiritual reform. I did not know my true identity in Christ. Here I am freshman and sophomore year thinking that everybody was heading to hell in a gasoline wetsuit for the little things they do and know realizing that the same God that had brought me out of my personal mess is the same God that would do the same thing for them. I was not sure about my beliefs so I would use certain forms of red herring/ hasty generalization fallacies to put up a front. This was why I appreciated my experience at Oakwood, I went from being a legalistic robot to being a liberated servant of Christ.
I am no longer defined by what I do but what I believe and WHO I believe in. I have lost many people for the things I’ve done during my “Legalistic” life, I am learning to become more open minded and accepting to many people. I have learned to love God and love people more authentically. I don’t condemn people anymore for having a different lifestyle, but I have learned to keep them lifted in my prayers and pray that my friendship and my personal life testimony would cause them to realize that they need a Savior and Lord in their life name Jesus and there is no other source of peace and freedom is in Christ. This reminds me of the theme song of the evangelistic meeting I had in Cuba “Es Secreto es Jesus” which means “The Secret is Jesus.” One thing that I have learned during my freedom from legalism is that being open-minded does not mean that I am compromising, it simply means I respect other people’s beliefs and lifestyles and willing to understand their stance on certain topic although they are contrary to my personal beliefs, while at the same time remain true to my beliefs and convictions.
What many of us former “Legalists” don’t realize is that we focus more on the person’s current circumstances and play God by assuming that they are hell bound, not knowing that God is not through with them yet. Some of us at that time are so caught up with our present and don’t take the time to reflect on the time when God delivered us from our mess. We would think that we have to obtain perfection BEFORE Jesus comes.
The hardest thing for an “ex-Legalist” like me to do before was to admit that I wasn’t perfect and that I will never be considered perfect by mere works, if I was to be “perfect”, it would defeat the purpose for a need for a Savior. I am still a work in progress, every day I am striving to be like Jesus. There are things that I battle with on a daily basis that I am currently overcoming whether it may be lust, envy, or even pride. God will even convict me of letting go of certain things that may be a distraction from Him like certain clothes, music, or even recreational activities. But that doesn’t mean I should give my friends grief by telling them not to do those things since I can’t.
I also realized that just because we are “set apart” does not mean that we are to quarantine ourselves from people outside of our church. The greatest form of evangelism is friendship evangelism. In this day in age, it’s all about relationships. I have learned to take time with others before “preaching” to them. We are living a in world that is hurting and are longing for something to complete them. We can be the ones who reflect the love of Christ to them and point them to Christ. From reading the Bible, I have noticed that Jesus spent time with those who were considered to be “unworthy”, thieves, liars, tax collectors, prostitutes, you name them all.. Christ died for them as well.
I used to be perfect, well I thought I was. God will use your greatest imperfection and make something beautiful. God will transform your life if you let Him. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that will transform the hearts of your friend who is battling with a lifestyle that is not pleasing in the Lord’s sight. Continue to shower them with God’s love. It may not happen overnight, but in God’s timing it will. People will know we are Christians by our love.
Forever Naturally Adorned,