One of the big blessings that comes with launching a new church with close friends is we don't have to worry about the shackles of legalism. We can explore the Scriptures with an open mind; without fear of having to tow party-lines, or the maintenance of a status quo... Our heritage within the Restoration Movement has one of the best catchphrases: We are Christians only, but not the only Christians. To honor our heritage, being open minded and sincere enough in our personal study to see the Scriptures in new and fresh ways and to have an ownership of our beliefs, is liberating and exhilarating!
For me there are three main reasons why we should avoid legalism like the plague. BTW, here's my definition of "legalism": A nasty religious addiction to rules and laws which implies God owes you for your strict outward obedience, even if you're a hardhearted jerk.
Again, here's why I say ditch legalism:
#1. Jesus' view of legalistic people in Matt 15.
#2. Judgmentalism itself is a salvation issue.
# The roadblock to people in need of God's grace.
Let me break these three down:
1. Jesus cracks down hard on the people in Matt 15:1-9 who "honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him." When we replace God's principles with our own rules, or even put our rules on a higher plane than God's will, we might feel great about our abilities to make laws and keep them, but God isn't impressed.
2. Jesus makes it clear in Matt 7:1-6 that whatever standard of perfection we hold people to, God will hold us to. For example, if I think I'm doing everything right, and therefore "I'm" going to heaven because I did everything the right way, but I think you missed one point in the Bible and your soul is in jeopardy, I've just jeopardized my soul. This is the scariest passage in the Bible to me. In other words, when I sentence people to hell for their lack of compete perfection, then Jesus will hold me to absolute perfection... In our devastating splintering in Christendom over matters of opinions, we better learn how to agree to disagree and embrace tolerance more.
3. I wonder how people outside God's kingdom reign will ever accept a message of Love from people who have a hard time loving the very people they are supposedly going to spend eternity with? Jesus is expressly clear that our method of convincing people we are "authentic" is our mutual love, i.e., in Jn 13:34-35 Jesus says people will know we are His followers by our love for each other.
If you are stuck asking yourself "Craig, are you saying anything goes?" you've missed the point. God is clear enough in His Word to spell out what we need to know to follow Him, and to let Him be God...
"Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?" (James 4:11-12 ESV)