There is a children’s song that goes: Have faith, hope, and charity, that’s the way to live successfully. How do I know the Bible tells me so….
I think one of the most devastating attributes of an unhealthy, legalistic church is that they weaken ones faith, take away hope and contaminate love.
Faith that begins as a result of acknowledging amazing grace, soon weakens when taught to rely on performance or adherence to arbitrary standards as a gauge of salvational standing.
Hope that begins with a belief that all things are possible is limited severely when tied to a dependence on human performance or actions seen as directly impacting ones status or relationship with God.
Finally love that begins as an all consuming feeling of caring, kindness, and a desire to give to others as you experienced the love of the almighty is corrupted by an attitude of self righteous judgement that permeates the entire movement in these legalistic, performance based, unhealthy church organizations.
I can remember a time as a new believer when nothing was seen as a negative. Lack of money or possessions just held little importance compared to the knowledge that God was real, He loved me and I had hope for eternity.
Then, as time passed, the cares of life- spouse, children, elderly parents . . . .wanting a perfect life for those I loved challenged my faith, my hope for the future, the purity of my love for all, rather than a love limited to those demonstrating a deservence of my love.
The unhealthy church engendered a skewed world view that limited my faith in amazing grace and attempted to define that faith by my own ability to believe or perform. Hope for the future was replace by fear of not measuring up to some hazy, uncertain standards.
Love was superficial and quickly withdrawn from those not in compliance with the group.
It became clear that I no longer had an uncompromised faith, hope, and charity and it was very doubtful I ever would regain these within this unhealthy church.
Leaving did not immediately bring me back to a healthy outlook and relationship with God. It is a journey. However, my faith is restored. God is almighty. He is in control. We need not fear. I have hope in a better future but echo apostle Paul in his statement that if in this life only I had hope then I would be of all men most miserable. This world seems hopeless but my hope rests in the Creator.
Since leaving the unhealthy atmosphere of self-righteous judgement, I can again see the love all around me. In many ways my faith and hope is restored by that. God is love! Unhealthy, legalistic churches distort that love into a system of rewards and punishments based on our inescapable human frailty. God’s love has no such constraints. Our love for others should be equally without constraint, loving our friends and our enemies and all those in between, loving ourselves and our neighbors because on this commandment to love rests all the law according to Jesus Christ. It does not rest on laws created by ill intentioned or even good intentioned men who would ignore God’s commandment to love and replace it with long lists of rules.