The Curse of Theological Rigidity
"Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example."1
People who are theologically rigid are the very opposite of what God’s Word encourages leaders to be. The theologically rigid see themselves as being very spiritual and good Christians. The Pharisees of Jesus' day saw themselves in the same light.
The fact is that people who are theologically rigid are not spiritual at all. They are theologically rigid because they are emotionally rigid. And they are emotionally rigid because they are living in denial—denying their insecurities and inner unresolved painful issues. Some are very angry. Others are control freaks. Some are both.
Furthermore, theologically rigid people who become leaders in the church (or in politics or any other area) do great damage to people both psychologically and spiritually. They keep people immature, over-dependent, and in denial just as they themselves are. They, like the Pharisees, love their rules and theological stance more than they love people. They use people to fulfill their own manipulative purposes. They are legalists who demand that others conform to their unrealistic expectations and, if they refuse to do so, they will be rejected—in some religious and political environments they can be totally ostracized and/or even killed.
God's word describes people who fall back into legalism as being bewitched.2 Remember though; legalists only control us if we allow them to. In some extreme cultures one may be forced to be controlled outwardly or be killed but it is important that, with God's help, one keeps control of his or her mind and beliefs.
Keep in mind, however, we are NOT saying that we shouldn't stand firm on clear Biblical Truths and principles. Not at all. Standing for Truth is a spiritual issue. Theological rigidity is a symptom of emotional rigidity and is a problem that can be resolved if the rigid person will see and admit that he or she has a problem. Only a truly honest person will do this.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please deliver me from the trap and curse of theological rigidity and legalism and give me the insight to recognize it whenever it appears. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. 1 Peter 5:2-3 (NLT).
2. Galatians 3:1.