I know that this may come as a shock to some of the people who know him, but when my middle brother was a little boy he was somewhat wild and unruly. Today he would be labeled as ADHD and medicated into a near-comatose stupor; but, fortunately for him, he grew up in a day when such kids were generally left alone and simply labeled as “high energy” (and their parents were simply labeled as “poor slobs”).
While I wasn’t around to experience his “reign of terror”, I’ve enjoyed hearing some of the stories over the years. About a year ago, after a Sunday dinner at our parents, he made mention of the fact that when he was in kindergarten he spent the majority of the school year locked in a coat closet with his mouth taped shut. My mom, who was appalled by this revelation, said, “I had no idea that was going on! How come you didn’t tell me?” My brother just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Heck, I had never been to school before. I just thought it was a normal part of kindergarten.”
I think my brother’s kindergarten experience is representative of what happens when a church preaches religion instead of the gospel. The people in the congregation receive the message (either implicitly or overtly) that Christianity is primarily about being morally upright, attending church and grudgingly following Jesus (or “God will get you!”). They end up believing that’s the gospel – “normal” Christianity – when, in fact, they’re actually [like my brother in kindergarten] locked up in the dark closet of legalism and behavior-based religion. Yes, sin & moral failings are evil and enslaving, but legalism can bind us just as quickly and surely as sin can. The gospel, on the other hand, sets us free from both masters: sin and legalism (which is the religion of self-salvation).
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal.5:1)
Let us step out of the dark closet of slavery to either sin or legalism and into the liberating light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Worship – Grow – Serve