Legalism is Powerless to Transform
My wife’s gift is mercy, and she was serving the practical needs of a 91-year-old woman who lived down the street. This woman had spent her career as a bartender and waitress. Her aging body often writhed in pain, so my wife would offer to rub her feet. They became close friends, and my wife discovered that Ellen was not a Christian.
One day I asked my wife, Patsy, “Would you like me to talk to Ellen about becoming a Christian?” She said, “Yes,” so we dropped by after dinner.
I asked Ellen, “Where are you on your spiritual pilgrimage?”
Ellen explained that she had grown up in a very strict religious home in which she was not allowed to wear makeup, listen to music, or go to dances–the epitome of making rules where Jesus did not. So at her first opportunity, she left home and never returned. It was obvious that religion was repugnant to her.
I apologized for the religious transgressions she had experienced, and told her that what I really wanted to talk to her about was a relationship with Jesus Christ–not religion.
She dismissed me with a wave of her hand and said, “Well, I just don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Since I hadn’t even made it to the gospel yet, I pressed on! “Well, has anyone ever talked to you about asking Jesus to forgive your sins and give you eternal life?”
At that point, this quick-witted and mentally alert 91-year-old woman leveled her gaze at me and said evenly, “You’re determined to talk to me about this aren’t you?”
Needless to say, I picked up the cue and that was the end of our conversation!
Ellen died a few months later. Her memorial service was commemorated with chips and dip at the bar where she once worked, thoughtfully sandwiched between two Saturday college football games.
We don’t know whether she remained unrepentant or if she died in a state of grace.
This we do know. The Devil did his best to dance on her grave by exploiting the legalism of confused Christians. How tragic.
Yours for changed lives,
Patrick Morley, Ph.D.