Legalism vs Joy (and the potential place inbetween)

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I know I said I was not going to join in the Life:unmasked meme, but I changed my mind. I’m still not sure about my motives, but too bad.. I’ll get over them.

I don’t do a regular “quiet time”, or read the Bible daily. I suppose, in my 28 years, I’ve probably read much of it several times over, but I’m really bad at having a daily devotion. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, or that I lack the good intentions, but that I’m easily distracted and just never really get around to it. I suspect I’m also not alone.

"I iz in liebury, studeez ur bookz" (photo via Flickr by J i J y)

Here’s the thing: on the one hand I recognise the importance of regular, personal study of God’s Word, and on the other hand, I don’t want to be legalistic about it. Ah.. that word. If there’s one thing that we evangelicals don’t like, it’s legalism; God looks at the heart! But I wonder if we’ve over-reacted, ironically creating an unneeded fence. Sometimes I reckon we use ‘legalism’ as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card to avoid things that we find a bit difficult or inconvenient. I’m sure I’m not the only to have caught myself reasoning that if my heart is not really in it, I shouldn’t do it.

I’ve recently started a new blog, with a trajectory more in the direction of my professional work as a musician, and how that interacts with faith (pardon the shameless plug). While thinking of things to write about, something struck me which I’ve been mulling over the last few days (but have not yet written about). I think there might be a middle place between the fear of legalism and the apathy of waiting until we’re really in the mood: discipline.

As a singer, I need to practice regularly. I need to keep my physical technique in shape: a few days off and it takes more time to get everything back in the right place. Learning music slowly (memorising music is not my favourite thing, to say the least), bit by bit over time is immensely more effective for retention than cramming the night before. If I don’t have the discipline of practice then I cannot properly do the job I’m paid for – a job I…. love.

Do you see the link? I love to sing, and sometimes I find it takes effort to practice. I have to  make myself sit down and memorise recitatives. It takes discipline to be the best and most effective I can be. I go through the unglamorous and sometimes tiring discipline of practice, not because I have a quota – if I don’t spend Xhrs in the practice room every day I’m not a real singer. No, I do that study because of the bigger picture - because I love to sing.

As I alluded to above, this is really just  kernel of an idea, which I will hopefully flesh out more fully in good time, but for now, I thought it worth sharing – perhaps others have some helpful ideas about how the idea of discipline might go with wanting to learn and grow through studying the Bible and not wanting to be legalistic about it.

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3 Responses to Legalism vs Joy (and the potential place inbetween)

  1. jonathanstone says:

    Yes, I see the connection. I like it! Thanks for sharing!

  2. wkshank says:

    Findo, pardon my posting twice on your blog, but I hope you'll read the intro/prologue whatever of Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. That piece is one of the best summaries I've read of this very tension, and helps me think rightly about it when I start resenting structure/discipline/rules! that I know are good for me, but…

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