I know what you’re thinking! “Dave, it’s been my lifelong dream to become a legalist! How can I do it in three steps? Tell me now!” Well, today’s your day. As someone who has a lot of experience in being a legalistic Christian, I can offer you a few tips on how to become one yourself.
Most people think it’s really hard to be a legalist. They think that being a legalist means attending a King James Only church, wearing a suit and tie or a frumpy dress all day, sporting a crew cut, and complaining about how irresponsible all the “kids” are these days. But I say, “Why go to all that trouble?” You can be a legalist without having to do anything hard!
Here’s the secret. Being a legalist is about putting law above Lawgiver. It’s much easier than the alternative. Why bother pressing on to know Jesus Christ, letting his gospel transform the way you look at the world, and eagerly obeying his commandments out of love? Just become a legalist instead! In fact, you don’t even need God’s law to be one. Here’s a tried-and-true method to help you.
Step 1: Find something good that you feel passionate about.
Are there any political or social causes that you support? Are there any means of self-improvement that you’re working on? Here are a few suggestions:
- Removing violence, sex, or language from movies
- Protecting the environment
- Healthy diet and exercise
- Social justice
Step 2: Make up an arbitrary standard of behavior for this area.
This step works best if it’s a standard that you can meet, whereas other people around you don’t measure up. That way, you can feel better about yourself at other people’s expense. Here are some possible rules you can invent:
- It’s wrong to watch R-rated movies.
- You’re behaving immorally if you don’t recycle.
- People who don’t exercise are not worth respecting.
- A good Christian prays for at least an hour a day.
- If you’re not donating money to stop AIDS, you are an unloving person.
- Anyone with a messy house is an irresponsible slob.
- If you can’t articulate exactly what is meant by the term propitiation, you’re not really a serious Christian.
Step 3: Judge everyone around you by this standard.
Here’s the rewarding part. You can sit back and gloat as you consider how inferior everyone is to you. Or you can work yourself into a frenzy of self-righteous outrage. Either way, you win!
There are plenty of other ways to become a legalist. In my opinion, though, this is one of the easiest methods. Just follow these three steps, and before long, you too will be a stuck-up, self-righteous jerk who doesn’t need a Savior!