What is legalism exactly? One definition of legalism is excessive adherence to the law. Another definition is dependence on moral law rather on personal faith in Jesus. When we fall into legalism we uphold “rules” or what we perceive as God’s law over acting with love and mercy.
I like to think about the purpose of God’s law. Is Gods law meant to be oppressive causing harm? Absolutely no. God law is meant to be love and protection. Just like you set rules for your children not to be oppressive but to keep them safe. Therefore if upholding a very strict, legalistic law is not showing the love and mercy that Jesus stood for, you have to question whether this is the true heart of the God who loves us.
“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:1-8
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