Last Mile Legalism

Engineers have been frustrated for centuries by the Last Mile problem. No matter how careful the construction of your infrastructure (whether it is an aqueduct, railroad, phone lines, fiber-optic internet network, drone-based next-day shipping system…) the short distance from the distribution system to final destination is expensive. Building a phone line across a country to cover ten thousand homes is easy. Running individual lines from that main line to wire up ten thousand houses is hard.

The problem is more than just connection: Your city may have clean water with great pressure… but if the Last Mile is cramped by old, narrow pipes you won't experience the fullness of the water for which you paid. It doesn't matter how fast is the internet at the downtown office (where the marketing department measures speed for advertising…) how good are the wires between your house and street? The Last Mile constrains and defines the user's experience of the whole system.

I have last mile problem between me and the source of Living Water.1

My whole life I have struggled with being worthy of God's favor. It is a form of legalism masquerading as piety. Legalism is attempting to earn a place in the Kingdom through righteous actions (obeying the law) instead of leaning totally on the free gift of God. While I know the truth…  I struggle with feeling and behaving like I ought to "pay my share." It emerges with my failures. I wrestle with my sins for a day, and I find myself praying and feeling that I ought to be extra good for two days to karmically balance the scales and put me back in God's favor.

This is a lie.

Scripture is filled with truth about salvation, grace, and God's love.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

— Romans 6:23

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

— Matthew 11:25-30

This truth has not changed… why do I struggle? I constrain my experience of His grace through my Last Mile Legalism. I have an inflated view of my own righteousness and a diminished understanding of the richness of Christ. The truth: His love, grace, and forgiveness is undiminished, untarnished, ever-flowing and free.2 I have to surrender my Last Mile.

Naming my error has helped me stop trying to earn God's approval or atone for my sins, but I still find myself thinking in this old way. Jesus, please help me. Help me to see how my righteousness is as filthy rags. You are worthy of all glory and honor. I want the conduits of grace in my life to be wide open. I'm the only one getting in the way, trying to substitute my filthy rags for your overwhelming goodness. I repent, and I want your help to repent. In Jesus' name, amen.

  1. I am not suggesting that my thinking can subtract one drop from God's grace. I'm just saying that I look at it the wrong way and experience less. 

  2. Gentle and Lowly and Deeper by Dane C. Ortlund were very helpful to me. 

  • 2023-07-31 14:08:35 -0500
    Rename markdown -> md

  • 2023-07-28 06:07:10 -0500
    add a quick note about how it's getting better

  • 2023-07-27 18:26:42 -0500
    add reference to Deeper

  • 2023-07-27 08:56:01 -0500
    fix typo

    Thanks dad.

  • 2023-07-27 07:33:56 -0500
    Update the essay a bit

  • 2023-07-27 07:25:19 -0500
    First draft