Legalism and Fences

Last week, I talked about magic systems in Christian fiction and how the inclusion of magic in fiction makes some Christians very uncomfortable. And, while I wholeheartedly disagree that it’s “sinful,” I understand and respect each person’s Christian liberty to either view or avoid something that isn’t overtly sinful.

See, all Christians have sensitivities to certain things. For some it might be watching violence or gore, for others it might be sensuality or substance abuse or any number of things. And those people are right to stay away from things that are stumbling blocks for them.

Where people go wrong is by taking their sensitivities and making gospel out of them. “I’m sensitive to such-and-such, therefore it is a grievous sin.”

Each person should listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit and avoid the things that are sensitivities to them. There are fences that they can and should put up for themselves to keep themselves pure based on their own weaknesses.

However, just because it’s an issue for one person doesn’t mean it’s an issue for someone else. The fences that I put up to guard my own heart are right and good for my own heart, but when I try to put those fences around other people, it’s legalistic.

If someone has a problem with alcohol, it’s not legalistic for them to say “I’ll never touch a drop.” That’s right and good and exactly what they should do to keep themselves from temptation.

If someone has a problem with lust they might make a covenant with their eyes and never watch anything with more than a PGI-13 rating for sexual content, and that is exactly as they should do to keep themselves pure. But if they say, “All R-rated movies are sinful,” they’re putting their fences around others, and that is legalism.

Ironically, it can even turn into a sin for that person. In some ways, it can even be a form of idolatry for that person, taking pharisaical pride in how they never drink alcohol or never watch an R-rated movie or never wear yoga pants.

Bottom line, especially as it relates to fiction, if something is a stumbling block for you, you shouldn’t read it. If you’re sensitive to violence and sex, Game of Thrones is not for you. If you’re sensitive to magic, The Amulet Saga isn’t the best thing for you to read. If you’re sensitive about dishonesty or subterfuge, then spy thrillers may be something you need to avoid. If you’re sensitive to coveting, then maybe even clean romances are going to be a stumbling block for you, because they entice you to want something (or someone) that isn’t realistic.

The point is, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in your own life. But don’t paint with a broad brush as sin all the things that are personal stumbling blocks for you.





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