Topic: Legalism


For I [God] desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines legalism as “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.” The term often comes up when people talk about Christianity. The word is often used to describe the way some churches or Christians appear to have a strict set of rules that they live by. Sometimes non-believers and believers alike view church practices as being too legalistic because they appear to require followers to obey a strict code of behavior. Some people even view the common traditions of church and the relative repetitiveness of church services as evidence of legalism. Others may view individual Christians as legalistic because of their beliefs on certain subjects. As a whole, the term is derogatory and when used in reference to Christians or Christianity, it is often used to defend ones’ choices against being a Christian. Legalism is not what Christianity is about.
Legalism shuns love and replaces it with a form of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is not something for which Christians should be known. Let us love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, not shun them because they do not practice their faith in the same way we do. Every believer and every church has traditions and routines that they follow. We must never believe that these traditions and routines are what establishes us as Christians. The traditions are not bad unless they are used as a means of self-righteousness or as a shield for sins or as a means of exempting us from practicing discipleship as the Bible instruct us. Traditions that do that should be abandoned in favor of ones that Biblically exemplify Godliness, discipleship and brotherly love, all of which draw us closer to God.
As Christians, we should understand what God truly wants from us. God wants us to have an inward desire to be like Christ, which is why we are called Christians. In other words, have a heart like Christ, one that has a compassion towards our fellow man, a desire to please God, a desire to live peaceably, (though there are limits), a desire to be close to God and a desire to bear spiritual fruit.
As Christians, we are free from the burden of the law. The law never saved anyone; only grace does that because no one can live up to the requirements of the law. As such, we should avoid legalism and embrace the fruits of the sprit. We should also embrace the freedom we have in Christ. Our freedom is not a freedom to sin, it is a freedom to bear spiritual fruits and to not live in fear of violating the law.
So what of the apparently legalistic beliefs and practices that are found in some churches and with some Christians today? We need not worry about what others do. We need to be concerned with our individual relationship with God and our freedom to bear spiritual fruits. We should examine ourselves and act in accordance to Biblical principles regardless of how that lines up with the traditions and regulations of others.

Read Galatians 5 and Romans 14. Galatians 5 and Romans 14 tells us about our freedom and how we should exercise that freedom. Legalism is a yoke of bondage that we are not bound to. We are FREE in Christ to bear good fruits! Let us focus on that and not tradition and rules and regulations.


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