Today is a hard day. It is a day I don't like myself and how my heart and mind feel.
There is a great value to self-examination within the day to day walk with and after Christ, but it ought to be more than a solely self-examination. It is why the Psalmist prayed, "Search me O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Ps. 139:23-24) When we do the necessary work of self-examination we must invite God to search along with us and reveal the things He will. We do this because when left to our own, we have two primary tendencies, both of which are destructive to the honest heart after God.
Our first tendency is to praise ourselves too highly. If we do not ask God to search our hearts and reveal, we will make excuses for every wicked or troublesome thing in our heart and mind. We will make light of dark things, which ought to be dealt with.
Our other tendency is to blame ourselves too heavily. If we do not ask God to search and reveal, we will tirelessly break ourselves down. For some of us God is entirely more gracious toward our sin than we would ever dream of being for ourselves.This is why we need God to search and reveal our true heart's condition.
God is fully aware of our tendency toward one of these extremes (I find myself in the latter most often). Because He is aware of our tendency, and because He knows too much SELF-examination does more harm than good, He presents in the Psalms how we ought to search and reveal the sin in our lives. We go about this with humility and grace, only God can accomplish that balance with perfection. Only God will draw us in humility and grace for self in order to balance between the extremes of praise and blame.
It was so easy to be angry at the legalistic Christians who have no idea what it means to love others as we are called to. I pretty much quit being angry and bitter when I made a guess at WHY they had been so poor at loving. God had called us to love others as we love ourselves.
It appeared to me perhaps we as Christians struggle to love others because we do not actually know how to love ourselves. For so many of us, or I know for me at least, I would not wish on anyone the kind of love I dish out on myself much of the time. So I see Christians in a different light. We suck so much at loving others because we do not know how to love ourselves as Christ sees and loves us.[Tweet That] So the cycle begins.
Now I have been noticing another point in that cycle. That point answers the question, "Why do we struggle to love ourselves?" "Why do Christians have such a horrible time loving themselves and thus loving and accepting others?" Essentially, why ARE we legalistic?
The answer comes from within the question. We are legalistic because we have been hurt by legalism.
I have a hard time loving and accepting others because I have a hard time loving myself, and I have a hard time loving and accepting myself because I do not feel loved and accepted by Christians, and Christians have a hard time loving and accepting me because they have a hard time loving and accepting themselves, and they have a hard time loving and accepting themselves because I, a Christian, have a hard time loving and accepting them. And the cycle of legalism thickens, and I am more a part of it than I ever realized.
Can the cycle be broken? Yes! How?
By loving and accepting myself AND others! By not withholding love and acceptance! The easiest cycle breaker (and hardest personal choice) is to break the cycle at the point of reality and brokeness. I take away the pretense of perfection...of myself. Then I allow the Christians to realize I have no perfection pretense of myself and I am able to have no perfection pretense of them. This will happen when I become more concerned with being honest and acquiring healing instead of appearing fine, okay, good, or dare I say, perfect. It is in my brokenness that legalism cycles are broken. Because then I am able to love others as I love myself, which is loving acceptance of myself despite my failures and mistakes. So when I love and accept others as I do myself, they can love and accept themselves as they are, and then love me and others as they love themselves.
But right now, we DO love others as we love ourselves...legalistically.