More Like Falling In Love Part 3: Lie, Hide… or Love


(With the release of my remix project, Song Cycles, it seemed like a good opportunity to revisit and remix some musings I wrote about the ideas behind the song “More Like Falling In Love” back when it originally released.)

Give me words
I’ll misuse them
I’ll misplace them
`Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
It never set me free

My family and I had the privilege of seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum recently. We walked through rooms that featured history and relics from the region of Qumran, where the Scrolls were discovered in the 1940’s, anticipation building as we learned of the remarkable significance of these documents and the equally remarkable circumstances surrounding their discovery, recognition, and now restoration.

The exhibit led us through the history of the part of the world that gave birth to all three of the world’s major religions, deepening our understanding of the ancient culture that produced these sacred texts.

Finally, we were led into a room that featured 6 tiny pieces of the scrolls in a light and climate controlled enclosure. Under glass were the holy texts, seemingly preserved by God himself as a gift to our modernity. Each piece was smaller than the palm of my hand, the writing so diminutive as to be barely readable.

I thought of Robinson Crusoe and how the common tools he gathered and the bits of wreckage that washed up on the shore must have become more like precious treasures because of their scarcity and his need of them. Likewise, these little bits of crude paper have washed up on the 20th century shores of this little blue rock that we are stranded on, and they are precious for their scarcity and our need. Or maybe they are more like messages in a bottle that have found their way to us over the waves of centuries, a voice from the past to answer the cacophony of critics who seem to never grow weary of challenging the authenticity of our ancient and sacred texts.

I don’t think I’m being merely sentimental when I say that to be present with these bits of paper was a moment pregnant with holiness. Each piece of the scrolls was from a different biblical book: Jeremiah, The Psalms, Deuteronomy. There were non-sacred texts among the scrolls, too, that give clues about the life of the people of the time, including a piece of a document called “The Community Rule”. This particular piece was fascinating to us and is what I would like to wonder about with you here. The bit of text on display, as I remember it, said something to this effect (disclaimer: I’m quoting from memory here):

If a member of the community sinned by oversight, that is to say by accident, they were to be excluded from certain communal meals and activities for two years time, at the end of which they would be able to rejoin the community. However, if they sinned by impertinence, that is to say willfully, they could be excommunicated entirely.

During our drive home we talked about our experience of the exhibit, the community rule in particular, and the religious order that produced it.

Ironically, it seemed to us to be the very kind of religious ideology that Jesus took to task and came to challenge. Here were words and ideas added to the Word of God that carry in them the potential to distort our understanding of God, what he desires, and what following him looks like.

My wife Taya put it a great way when she said, “now, don’t think I’m being irreverent, but it kind of reminds me of the Little Rascals – remember their club? The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club? To be initiated they had to solemnly make earnest promises to not talk to girls in order to be in the club, right? Which of course made it even harder to not talk to girls. But you make these oaths because you so desperately want to be in the club! So you’ve got these guys in the desert who desperately need to be in the club – and in their time the club is everything, because if you’re not in it, you’re vulnerable to death and poverty as an outsider. Your survival depended on being part of the community back then. So, okay, you need the protection of community, and you make the vows to not sin, and then that leaves you with only two options: to either lie or hide – because the truth is you are a sinner and no amount of will power or vow taking will change that. But you can’t afford to get kicked out of the club. So either you lie, or you learn to hide.”

Thank you, Taya, I couldn’t have said it any better.

The sickness of religious idolatry can be measured by the extent to which it forces you to comply to standards of holiness in order to belong. There isn’t anything wrong with the standards of holiness – we need those! But it gets a little dicey in my mind when we rely solely on external motivation (i.e. “comply to our standards, or else!”) to get the job done. Because, of course, the most significant holiness can only come from the inside out, born of the Spirit. This is the difference between compelled obedience and inspired obedience. Legislating holiness can only deal with the outward symptoms of sin, but it rarely gets to the heart of the matter.

Here’s what I mean: let’s say I’m struggling with something, maybe it’s lust or some other unconfessed sin, maybe it’s honest doubt about the whole faith enterprise, maybe it’s even anger or disappointment with God. Whatever it is, when I dare to be honest enough to give voice to it, I might be met with a religious attitude that is uncomfortable with my honesty, or that shames me for what I’m going through or the mistakes that I’d like to move beyond. It’s hard enough to muster up the courage to be honest about it in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to feel shamed and like I’ve been shut down. And so I learn my lesson: that I have to lie or hide in order to be a part of this club.

This is an oversimplification, I know, yet I’m sure many of you reading this identify with what I’m talking about.

That doesn’t mean that we go soft on holiness. On the contrary, we recognize that holiness is the Lord’s domain, and that if he asks it of us it’s because he intends to make it available to us – the desire for holiness ought to lead us into deeper dependence and humility. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled…” Too often, though, what passes for holiness has the whiff of self-righteousness. We often make holiness something to be performed, something that we achieve through discipline and our own effort. But isn’t this kind of holiness a sham and an insult to a Holy God?

Of course discipline, self denial, etc. is virtuous, but if we believe that we could for one moment accomplish perfect holiness for ourselves then don’t we nullify the necessity of Christ’s work on the cross? In other words, is it Christ alone or are we still clinging to the notion that if we just try hard enough we can save ourselves?  It seems to me that the cross tells us that holiness is something we must ultimately trust God for, that we participate in rather than accomplish.

If we don’t trust God for holiness in our own life, we won’t trust him for it in the life of our faith community, either. When that happens, we begin trying to exact holiness from those around us. And when we do that, our love becomes conditional, and we pervert the gospel by compelling others to be people pleasers – people who lie or hide in order to win the approval of those in charge of the clubhouse.

Meanwhile, I believe the Lord is whispering to our hearts, wanting us to lay down our best efforts of holiness and instead let him shape it inside of us and draw it out of us.

“My yoke is easy, my burden is light” Jesus tells us, and at times I’ve been tempted to call him a liar as I’ve been crushed under the heavy yoke of legalistic obligation. I still remember the day I realized that it wasn’t his yoke I was under at all, but rather the yoke of the demands of my religious community I was a part of at the time.

In other words, I was doing the right things for the wrong reasons, and ultimately for the wrong people. I misplaced my obligations, and when that happened my efforts toward holiness became a form of idolatry where I lived to please those who I let stand in judgment over me. My unholy sacrifice upon their altar was my half-hearted compliance to their religious expectations. It became a stone around my feet that never let me move much beyond my sin and fear (or their control of me).

I’ve always believed that one of the chief purposes of marriage is to show us what a relationship with God is meant to look like. It’s in marriage and parenthood that we’re given a front row seat to sacrificial love, forgiveness, and trust.

Early in our marriage Taya and I (especially me) were guilty at times of coercing the other to get what we wanted, and withholding love and approval if the other didn’t perform to expectations. It doesn’t take long to realize this is an effective way to kill a relationship.

Show me a marriage that is healthy and fruitful and I’ll show you two people who have learned to love each other unconditionally and with forgiving hearts – recognizing each other as sinners, but not making the marriage dependent upon the other’s performance. This kind of marriage is the soil that grows souls that are rich in freedom, honesty, intimacy, and transformation.

Why would God create an institution guided by such principles unless he was trying to help us understand something about the way he relates to us and the way we are to relate to each other?

From where I sit, the best that I can make of it is that it seems that God is telling us how the human heart works, why grace and unconditional love are of central significance, and why it’s so important that we let perfect love cast out all fear. Imagine a faith community defined by these virtues, where honest confession is free of fear and shame and instead is the key that unlocks grace and healing.

This kind of faith community is fertile soil for growing the kind of trust and intimacy that God desires of us and for us and that leads the way to holiness and sanctification, setting us free to do the right things for the right reasons, offering our obedience as worship to the Lord God Almighty alone – a worship that he isn’t willing to share with the people who we are tempted to please.

This was on my mind as I wrote verse two of a song about Christian faith being as much like falling in love as it is anything else. I am persuaded that only love can make pure holiness and pure worship available to us.

Parting shot: maybe the final irony in all of this is the grace of it all.  Allow me a moment of presumption for the sake of hopefully seeing something beautiful about the mystery of God’s extravagance.  Let’s assume for a moment that maybe my musings thus far have at least some merit.  If it be true that some of the ideology that defined this ancient Qumran community was off the mark, and that perhaps this error was in essence a sin of either oversight or impertinence, then how much more beautiful and compelling is it that the Lord violated their own standards of holiness, choosing to use them to carry his very Word into history.

He works through the community of the broken and imperfect. This also happens to be, in spite of itself, a holy community.  This is beautiful to me.

Jason Gray is a recording artist with Centricity Records. His latest single, out now, is "When I Say Yes".


  1. mike

    Jason, we practiced a song last night for Sunday that says “Holiness is, Christ in Me.”

    I am holy because I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer me but Him in me. This realization has changed my perspective. I wonder if the folks in the Old Testament lived under the old perspective that it was what they did and not who or whose they were. I think Jesus came to change or perspective, our minds about who God is. His kindness leads me to repentance, I am constrained by His love. Religion, regardless of form, is a perspective that God is mad because I am a sinner. I simply just don’t see this in the NT.

    By the way, your posts about “More Like Falling in Love” have made me a fan of your music and your perspective. Thanks for the songs.

  2. Toni W

    Thank you Jason. I am on the same page with you, top to bottom. I have been to Israel twice, the most recent trip being this last March. Each time I have visited Qu’mran and seen the place where this Essene Sect lived. So grateful for the Scrolls. So sad that they never got to know the mercy, grace and love of Jesus, and in turn, bestow that upon others.

  3. Jaclyn

    “the Lord violated their own standards of holiness, choosing to use them to carry his very Word into history.”

    The Lord is somone so different and far higher than me. He truly deserves all the glory, in and from everything.

    Thanks, Jason. I’m just going to sit quietly and admire His handiwork.

  4. Andrew

    As usual, Jason, you are right on!

    I was actually very surprised to learn in your part one post that your song generated any controversy at all. The first time I heard it, I knew exactly what your message was, and felt that it was one of the most profoundly God-inspired messages I have ever heard.

    For me, your observation that the most significant holiness can only come from the inside out really goes to the heart of the matter–it is our hearts that matter most to God.

    As a graduate of a Christian High School, and a survivor of a Southern Baptist (obey these rules or else!) upbringing, I know exactly what you are talking about, and I agree with you 100%

  5. Fellow Traveler

    Could you give us some examples of the kind of “legalism” that you’re specifically addressing here?

    The reason I am asking is that there a lot of ways that word could be defined.

  6. Timothy

    I too have been there (Qumran) and have wrestled with the seeming contradiction of the Holy being transcribed by those whose rules of life apparently missed the point. Even to the point of wondering if their translations were somehow tainted by it.

    I know for myself, that no matter how much I learn of Grace and unconditional love I still struggle to believe fully, on the inside, where it obviously counts, that I am included. My life had been, for so long, one of lying and hiding, from others and from me. My heart revealed in truth would have made me outcast and loathed. These were not just struggles with doubt or fear or even with honesty. I won’t go into details but trust me when I say that the feelings aroused by my life and actions would mostly have been fierce anger and disgust. Trying to live within the boundaries of societies rules and laws was impossible much less God’s. The separation of spirit and flesh within me became wider as I tried to live from that duality. If I could show people that I was good and trustworthy and they responded affirmatively then that’s who I was. Somehow all the evil and pain I caused weren’t as real if others saw goodness there. When God first drew me to Himself I tried to put on His righteousness, but I was always layering it over all of the old wounds which quickly bled through. God was just another set of rules that I couldn’t keep.

    God led me to a group of prayerful people from a number of different denominations who were on a journey to become spirit led followers of Christ. At the time I didn’t believe much of what they did, I hadn’t had any formal religious training and was pretty loose in my ideas of who God might be. The one thing that drew me in and kept me there was the love. I knew that I was loved the first time I went there. Loved, and they didn’t even know me. Of course they didn’t know anything about me either which helped. Over the years who I was, was revealed despite my best efforts at concealing it. In the process I did a lot of damage to the group as a whole and, of course, to individuals who loved me. I had come to rely on their love for me to such an extent that I never really thought about being asked to leave, although they would have had every right to. This was not anything anyone had come up against like this before and we all made our way though it, tripping and stumbling but always trying to find new ways to love and forgive. (well mostly they did but I was changing). I am not the man I was. I like to think that I am not just a man in control of the negative but a man healed and brought back into the image of his maker. A man dearly loved who can now love in return.

    I hope this is what I intend it to be; an illustration of what Jason was talking about. I don’t have time to read back though and amend it. One other thing I want to add; all through this many years of struggle and failure there was also a lot of overcoming and victory and being used by Christ. At the lowest point in my struggle I can still point to the times where God was using me (mostly in spite of myself). He turns all things to good…

  7. Jason Gray


    Timothy, thanks for sharing – so good. A good example in my mind of the best kind of fruit that comes from a community of believers who are willing to brave the messy adventure of loving unconditionally. I like, too, that there is no where in your story where it appears that they were enabling the worst of your behavior, but it appears that they loved you through it the best they knew how.

  8. Jason Gray


    Fellow Traveler, I’m speaking in broad terms, I guess, of any kind of legalism that says we will be accepted or rejected according to outward behavior. While I know there are instances where it is required and necessary to remove someone from a community – of course there are exceptions (sexual abuse being an obvious one)- but I’m speaking in general, as a rule of thumb, of the kind of unconditional love that I hope would mark our Christian community.

    And actually I don’t even think I’m talking about formal church community necessarily, but more like… I don’t know… I guess I’m thinking of myself a bit, and wondering what people I come into contact with feel around me… do they feel safe enough to confess their shame and sin in front of me? Or do they feel like they have to hide, afraid that if I or anyone else knew their secrets that they’d be rejected.

    I’m pretty self-righteous – hopefully increasingly less so – but I know I have had a pretty big measuring stick that I’ve carried around with me everywhere I go. And people sense that measuring stick – even if I only mostly use it to judge myself and my own actions, others around me feel it’s presence, and therefore feel judged by it, whether I actively judged them or not. I still don’t know exactly what to do about this, but I think I’m learning…

    I’ve also been a bit of a zealous truth-defender, in the worst sense of the word. Of course there is a righteous way to be a truth defender, but there’s also the worst way. Pharisees were truth defenders, and of course so was Paul, John, and even Jesus (though technically he was the Truth, and didn’t really defend himself… hmmm… I says to myself… that seems like a wonderful concept to be curious about… Maybe a later blog?)

    The problem with being the worst kind of truth defender is the way I am tempted to attack anything that makes my lie detector go off. The fruit of that is eventually people have stopped wanting to have conversations with me… it was exhausting for them and made them feel shamed all the time.

    I guess this goes back to some thoughts I’ve expressed elsewhere that, for me, at least, it’s been good to let the truth defend itself most of the time. It makes me a better listener and it makes it easier for people to receive love from me. I’m more able to love people regardless of the stage of their spiritual development, etc. Instead of always looking for error and heresy, I now am able to see other things, like heart motivation, the kind of hurt that makes a person believe a certain thing, etc.

    It used to be if you cussed, or partook of alcohol, or smoked, etc. you couldn’t hang with me. I’m so glad that’s not true of me anymore. It also means I’m more able to hang with myself 🙂

    I don’t know if that answers your question specifically… I guess I’m speaking more in terms of the general spirit that marks our communities, reacting specifically to thoughts I had when I was at the exhibit. I know it’s only part of the larger story of Christian community, but I hoped it’s a part worth thinking about.

  9. rachel w. bradley

    Great post, Jason.
    I’d like to help in explanation of what you are speaking of, when it comes to legalism.
    Those in my bible study and I actually just discussed this last night, as my church’s most recent sermon was on luke 18: 9-14, The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

    9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
    13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

    14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    The Pharisee was completely and totally legalistic. If you look at his ‘list’ that he reads off, he is commending himself to God over his own accomplishments. All he can think about is himself and how he is better than those who appear to be more sinful than he. What pride! Have you ever been around somebody who was wonderful in action and deed and the way they treated you felt so welcoming until you realized the only reason they did this was to gain something? And after time you realize they could care less about you, and only sought to please themselves? Did you still hold them in high favor when they treated you well? Or did you find it repulsive and disgusting that they would trick you into thinking they were great and glorious so as to get something out of you? Imagine how God feels when you come to him with your checklist “Hey, look God- I’ve done this, and that, and this,and that, and thank you that I am better than him and her, and be proud of how amazing I am. I bet you just can’t help but love me because of how much better I am than everyone else.”

    Legalism. Comparing yourself to others, and striving to abide by a set of human laws to ‘please God’ (though it is usually to please the elders in your church, leaders in your community, or friends, etc). Nobody likes that sort of attitude, especially God. He regards it as a contemptible ‘gift’; something horrendous and disgusting. Legalism comes when you compare yourself to others instead of Christ (‘well I am better than him! Look what I have done…”). When we compare ourselves to Christ, we realize that we cannot please God because of our sin; we have nothing good to offer him. That is where the beauty of grace comes in; that he would extend this beautiful, priceless gift known as salvation to an evil world. Only those who truly understand this concept can be freed from the chains of legalism.

    So the legalistic, self righteous pharisee didn’t understand this; but the sinful tax collector who came to the temple as well, he came to God with his heart in his hands, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He wasn’t trying to impress God, or anyone else. He recognized his own insignificance, and sin, and came to God asking for a gift that only God could give.

  10. Ron Block

    Jason, loved this: “If we don’t trust God for holiness in our own life, we won’t trust him for it in the life of our faith community, either. When that happens, we begin trying to exact holiness from those around us. And when we do that, our love becomes conditional, and we pervert the gospel by compelling others to be people pleasers – people who lie or hide in order to win the approval of those in charge of the clubhouse.”

    That is what legalism engenders. We become either self-commending hypocrites or self-condemning, defeated, depressing lie-believers. Either way we’re people pleasers – either thinking we’re succeeding or thinking we’re failing. Success or failure in this way really doesn’t matter. They’re both part of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

    I would say, though, that I don’t see my wife with the identity tag “Sinner.” When I am seeing truly, I see her as Christ-indwelt, a saint, holy, dearly loved, full of grace and truth and power, but not always fully knowing it (because that’s how I see myself). The primary thing is to “know no man after the flesh…”, that is, to identify no one by their appearance, but by the operative spirit within the person. People identified Christ by his flesh appearance: “Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Isn’t he from Galilee? Can anything good come out of Galilee?” “He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Paul says, “Though we once knew Christ in this way,” that is we saw him by his flesh appearance. But now we do so no more. He is the Son of the living God, the King of the universe.

    So that is how I am to identify myself and other believers – as Christ-indwelt, full of power, full of everything they need for life and godliness, complete in Christ, one spirit with the Lord, no matter how they happen to be behaving. And of course sometimes behavior needs to be addressed, but only by appealing to who the person really is. “You’re not being who you really are; why are you acting like this?” is the method Paul used. “Don’t you know you’re the temple of God? Therefore (because you’re the temple of God) flee fornication.”

    I would define the bottom line attitude of legalism as independence. Unbelievers can be legalistic by thinking they can be good enough to merit God’s favor. Believers often do it by thinking, “I can be like God by striving to keep the commandments and asking God for his help.” But really there is no source of true goodness in the entire universe but God, and in order to manifest eternally lasting good we must rely on him to do it through us.

  11. Kris C

    What an amazing story. The hair on my neck stood on end as I read this. Thank you for sharing this, I will be chewing on this a while. Tremendous. Blessings, Brother.

  12. Fellow Traveler

    Your answer definitely helps me understand where you’re coming from Jason. Thanks.

  13. Shelley R.

    In college, I carried within a measuring stick that tore at relationships around me and damaged my faith as well. Quite destructive actually. One side measured the shame and guilt for an addiction and the other side tallied the lies and manipulation I required to maintain it. I had the inability to grant grace to others for I lacked it for myself. I became strangely protected in my judgement of others. One day, a dear friend came to me with a 2×4 board that he had embellished in the art department. Rough, full of wood fibers that were eager to embed my skin with splinters, and an inscription: “For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….” All he said as he placed it by my desk was a sarcastic chide of “Well, Shelley, since you’re so good at beating yourself up, you might as well use this to remember just how ridiculous it is.”

    It was the moment I began to grasp that I really hadn’t trusted the cross, that I hadn’t trusted that the work accomplished there was done, and I needed to stop trying to finish it myself by wallowing in struggle and thus judgement of others (okay, and myself). Grace, forgiveness, the new creation within IS a miraculous gift, that was and continues to be a mystery.

    Thanks for stirring up the memory of grace given to my sin through your ruminations…

  14. Loren

    Thanks for this, Jason. It hits with perfect timing (God always knows, huh?); I’ve needed the reminder again and again in the past couple weeks that God works through my weakness and brokenness. I inadvertently failed one who I thought a friend, and have been rejected despite profuse apology. It struck me as supremely unfair and “unloving” on her part, and my gut feeling is to let her fall by the wayside. But at the same time I wonder how I can continue to show Godly love to her. I don’t want to be dragged down into trying to please her with her standards (which I’ve apparently failed to understand anyway), but I don’t want to cast her aside because she has rejected my apology. Any thoughts on that?

  15. Timothy

    Loren, if I might, I just had a couple of thoughts about your post. One thing God has shown my group over and over is that we need to take any hurts that happen to us from friends, strangers or brother and sisters to him as soon as we can and ask for healing. It is his great joy to fill us with love and forgiveness. Another thing is to just pray about what happened between you and let Jesus show you anything about it that He wants to. I’m not saying there is anything else to see but its just good to be open. God might show you some of why it has affected her so much. Then pray for her and your relationship. As you noted above, God’s timing is always perfect and He, in my experience, always wants to heal relationships. You can trust Him to provide opportunities for reconcilliation. You won’t have to make them happen just be ready to enter into them when He does. I’ll keep you both in my prayers.

  16. Loren

    Thanks so much, Timothy, for wise words. I think I’m on the right starting point as these are steps I’ve been taking (i.e. taking it to God first and praying for healing, figuring out why it occurred). I need the reminder that only He can restore fully, but I need to keep my eyes open for opportunities to let Him work.

  17. vizwhiz

    Jason, first, we are SOOOOO glad to have found your music and the ministry it is. We are loving it, especially listening to your “live” coffeehouse versions (on YT) that include so much commentary… We feel that your transparency is going to help us spread the wonderful message of God’s unconditional love and grace, so poignantly contained in songs like “I Am New” and “More Like Falling In Love”, as music somehow makes everything more palatable to those who struggle to accept it. (sings: Just a spoon-ful of sugar helps the medicine go down…) 😉

    Your blog above is awesome, and I believe you are right on…legalism has marked, or perhaps plagued, the “simplicity of the gospel”, a message of grace as you have so eloquently described, from the beginning of the revelation of the message – as evidenced by Paul’s constant dealings with the perversion and undermining of that message by those who wished to place the yoke of the law around the necks of the new believers (Gal 5:1).

    Your understanding of how holiness and fulfillment of God’s standards is something that comes from inside is wonderful, and a step most, or at least many, in the community of believers have never heard, been taught, or understood, much less believed. I love your description of holiness being something we participate in rather than accomplish…if you don’t mind, I’d like to use that. My wife and I have discovered the very same things you are communicating, and also experience the difficulty of re-communicating that to other Christians – rejection stinks – so we are always open to new ways of relating the message.

    My wife and I believe that this is an end-time message, one that will create the same division Jesus and Paul experienced (for the same reasons), and ultimately one that will usher in His return. We believe that Christians are getting it – more and more of them – but that it is also drawing a line in the dirt for those who cling to the law and external religion…if they don’t accept it, they will ultimately fight the message and those who believe it also.

    Thank you for being a light – it is quite an encouragement! God bless you!!

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