Bitterness · Forgiveness · Gospel · Legalism

Legalistically-Raised Christians, Don’t be Bitter

There are a lot of Christians who were raised within legalistic churches who are very bitter concerning their upbringing. As someone who came from a somewhat legalistic background, I can relate. I also want to call you to not be bitter, and I am going to tell you why.

First, you may not understand legalism. If that is the case, you can read more about that in the article called “What is Christian Legalism?” Second, I am not speaking to those who are still in Christian legalism, but those who have escaped from it. I am talking about those who know they have been saved by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, and are following and obeying God because of the grace extended to them from Him.

I am continually running into people, either those who are currently Christians or those who would no longer call themselves that, who were raised in legalistic environments of one stripe or another. Often the response to it is bitterness. They have an anger, or resentment to their upbringing altogether, not just the legalistic parts.

In some ways I can be sympathetic. Jesus’ “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). That’s because His love for us is based on His performance, not ours. That’s because His rules are set in stone and are few, and legalists’ rules constantly change, and are never ending. To have a yoke that is not God’s placed on you can be very heavy.

If you grew up in a Christian home where God’s grace for salvation was proclaimed to you, I’m going to be sympathetic with you, but ask you not to be bitter. If you had parents and a church who loved God, proclaimed salvation through grace to you, and taught you a lot about God, you were blessed.

What we can often do is focus on what we went through, and miss what we gained from it. If you were raised in a Christian home, even if there was some legalism, you had an advantage over others. As a pastor of many people who were not raised with Christ at all, you may miss what you were protected from. Those who were raised without Christ at all fell into many grave sins while those of us who grew up legalistically did not. They are facing the consequences of this.

We can also say that if we were raised with knowing Christ, even if there was some legalistic distortion, we were blessed. We may have to be retrained in “the renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2), but if we knew Christ, heard God’s Word proclaimed, and knew the basics about God that is a blessing. Again, we have an advantage that those who were raised without God at all did not have. Let us not take advantage of those blessings in our life, or disregard what we had, because of what we didn’t.

Were you raised in a Christian home, or church, but one that was legalistic to some extent? Are you thankful for the right things you were taught about God, His Word, and Jesus? Are you able to have fond memories of what you were given, despite what you missed out on? Are you bitter about your legalistic upbringing, or are you able to see that there was still God’s grace in your life despite those things?

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