The Difference Between Legalism and Goodness


Friday, August 17, 2018

christ and rich young ruler

Then someone came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And Jesus answered, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The man then asked Him, “Which ones?” – Matthew 19: 16-18a

The inquiring man asked the wrong question, one that too many, too often still ask today … “Which of the commandments am I to keep?

And this question is symptomatic of the lack of true and authentic spirituality, the failure to understand that our sense of goodness is to be found in the moral conscience of God, a morality that is found in the heart of God.  Goodness and God are found in the character, the wishes, the dreams, the hopes of God and not in our human endeavor codify God’s Goodness into laws.  The morality of God cannot be separated from the Divine personhood of God.

“Which of the commandments am I to keep?”  The question itself betrays the intent of this man.  He does not truly desire to be “good” but rather to be “good” on his own terms.

In law school I learned that “the law is but the bare minimum of morality”.  Yet, in matters of faith we have through the centuries have used legalism to condemn others and excuse our selves.  We have turned verses into laws, etching in stone that which God did not etch in stone.  We have taken situational applications of the faith and turned them into law, totally casting aside the limits of their knowledge in that time.  We have disregarded certain moral concerns and emphasized other moral concerns usually for the purpose of establishing ourselves as righteous. “Which of the commandments am I to keep?” 

The practice of legalism can be used to fence in the goodness of God.  Instead of trying to fulfill the intentions of God, God’s wishes and ways, we limit God to our self-chosen menu of rules.  And sadly, once again, we do so to prove ourselves righteous and others unrighteous.

But Christ came to reveal the Heart of God, a Heart that seeks to create a realm based on a More Perfect Love rather than a more detailed, a moral realm of authentic goodness, not a legal realm that can often be used for purposes never intended by the Lord.

My life is not devoted to live by way of the Goodness of God.

Always in His Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz


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