Christian Living: Law vs. Grace

In your Christian practice, do you find yourself drawn more to law-based living or more to grace-based living?  What effect does this have on your relationships with God and others?  What effect does this have on your leadership expectations of yourself and others?

During a Christian’s journey with Christ, he/she may encounter situations that require a strict adherence to a set of human standards or a man-made set of morals.  Many times, these human standards or morals conflict with Christian practice.  In these situations, a choice must be made:  strictly adhere to these standards, or find a balance between the two without compromising God’s standards.  These two choices present two methods of living:  law-based living or grace-based living.

The roots of law-based living stem from legalism, which has been a part of the Christian landscape since the beginning.  Legalism involves the reliance on fleshly efforts to strictly adhere to righteousness as defined by human standards.  It stresses a set of human-imposed rules instead of the Spirit that indwells in all Christians.[1]  In other words, it is a human effort to strictly live by a man-made set of rules or morals that deem a person ‘righteous’.  It relies heavily on key words such as duty and obligation, and produces a self-imposed state of bondage for a Christian.[2]

On the other side of the spectrum is liberty, or grace-based living.  This method of living relies on the Spirit to direct a Christian to achieve God’s definition of righteousness.[3]  It takes the focus off of the individual and places it on God, which creates a sense of freedom for a Christian.  A part of this freedom stems from the disappearance of the guilt associated with an obligation, and the emergence of acceptance and security from a desire to achieve righteousness in God’s eyes.[4]

As a Christian military leader, I am currently experiencing a conflict between legalism and liberty due to recent changes in policy.  I am spiritually drawn to grace-based living, but my profession draws me more towards law-based living in a sense.  These new policy changes and standards present a challenge for me since they force me to adhere to a form of legalism.  Under these new human-imposed rules, I am required to follow a set of rules that may starkly contradict my Christian morals and worldview.

However, over time God granted me a new perspective on this issue, and presented a way of dealing with this new set of standards.  First, I am mindful of the imago Dei and how each human being is God’s image bearer.  Second, all human beings are worthy of the same grace that God shows to me each and every day.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I can love all people even though I may disagree with their lifestyle or beliefs, and He can use my outward demonstration of Christian love as a testament of God’s saving grace.


[1] Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image:  Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation, (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2001), 119.

[2] Ibid., 120.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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