Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Narrow Path: Sheltering vs. Legalism

There is a fine line between legalism and sheltering, but how can you tell where that is? Who exemplifies sheltering and who is just being legalistic? Of course if God calls you to live a certain way, you should. I guess it starts to become legalistic when the "rules" get too complicated and inflexible, and you start to impose those rules on others. When Scripture is stretched, and then it definitely becomes legalistic when one states you must live exactly this man made way to be considered righteous.

I am all for bringing my walk with the Lord to the next level, getting rid of what ever is going to hold me back. However, on the other hand, I do not want to become a Pharisee either. Both extremes worry me, I do not want to fall into either pit. One might look better than the other, but a pit is a pit. More over, who did Jesus show most disdain for thieving tax collectors or Pharisees? Maybe walking a Christian life is not only a narrow path because few, truly choose it, but also because it is very easy on a narrow path to step off the path. A little to the right or a little to the left, and you find yourself off the path before you even realize it.

Jesus talked about the Pharisees, as
"They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden." ~ Matthew 22:4 NLT **
Sometimes I wonder whether, especially in homeschooling circles, that we become too legalistic, making high demands of holiness. If you go far enough in sheltering, you end up in legalism. Also, if you continue that verse above, it speaks of the Pharisees behaving this way for the good opinions of others, self-righteousness. It is dangerously easy to slip into self-righteousness the more you shelter. So, we must be careful the way we speak of it, to bring the glory to God and not ourselves, nor judgment on others. After all, it is our heart God is after.

Instead of hard and fast rules, use the Biblical sense in each unique situation. For example, instead of throwing out the TV, use it sparingly, only watching shows you would watch with Jesus sitting next to you. After all, God is always with us, though we forget that much of the time. In our case, we do not have cable, I mean not even basic. Since the switch to digital, we only get a few channels, and that is with the converter. Not only is this cheaper, it protects us from things we do not want in our home. We must sift through all these things with prayer and abiding in God's Word. Apply the Bible to each show, instead of just chucking the whole idea of TV. This way we are teaching our children how to navigate through the world, living in the world, but not of it. It is sort of like Sleeping Beauty and the spinning wheel, wouldn't it have been better, if at an appropriate age, the king and queen taught their daughter about the spinning wheel and not isolated her away from it.

After all, where will the rules end? No TV, no video games, and well, cheese doodles and french fries have caused many people to become gluttons, perhaps those should be banded as well. They are not edifying to the spirit, they do not improve our relationship with Christ. Any small amount of poison is still poison right? The one thing these items have in common is none of them are mentioned in the Bible. So how do we know exactly how to handle them with consistency?

Instead of being like a totalitarian government like North Korea, our sheltering should not resemble isolation*. Nor should we leave our children exposed to all of the world, that would be foolish and dangerous. Sheltering is a must for every Christian parent. We need to, at a reasonable level, protect them while preparing them to live in the world and not be of it. Not isolating, not exposure, but insulating. Never failing to tell them, that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If you are a homeschooler, do not be beat up by the legalism of others. If there is something that is not honoring to God in your life, by all means feel that conviction. But do not follow man made rules. Do not let others make you feel guilty when there is no sin on your part, they probably do not want to make you feel that way in the first place. As homeschoolers, lets not run so far away from sin, that we run right through God's shelter and into sin again. While homeschooling is not for everyone, it is a truly great way to insulate your children!

*Some of my ideas on involving some parts of this post where learned and inspired by a workshop by David Hazell titled, "Exposed, Isolated, or Insulated." Not anything about the Pharisees, but only in regards to the ideas referred to in the workshop title.

**There is plenty of scripture on Pharisees, but I assume you have read them. So I do not list additional verses or explanations about the Pharisees.

Here is another post about sheltering from Leading Little Heart Home BLOG.


  1. Hi Karen,
    I was going to link the Leading Little Hearts Home post, but then I saw that you have it in there. :) We must be thinking alike today!


  2. Hi Karen, good blog. It's true balance is key, not to much but not to little. Homeschooled or not, we all are accountable to God for our actions and how we raise our children as well. I never want to be so "religous" that I stuff it down my children's throats and then they puck it up, and turn from God. God help us all to raise our children well I pray.