was a Sabbath.” [John 5:9]
Legalism is antithetical to God. Legalism is the complete absence of love and grace. Legalism completely forgets about the compassion of Jesus for those who are hurting; who are poor. Legalism assumes that if we could somehow convince people of our “model” for thinking and actions then the world would be a so much better place.
Here is a story of blatant legalism as told by an associate of Jesus named John in his words. “In Jerusalem located near the Sheep Gate was a pool, called Bethesda which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lay–the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath. [John 5:2-9 NIV]
38 years of pain, unable to do what others can do, confined 24/7 to a portable cot, not able to make an income, abused or ignored by people passing by, made fun of by children and shunned by the religious. 38 years of life debilitating paralysis were suddenly eliminated for the man.
The man’s troubles should have been over. There should have been great rejoicing, led by the religious folks at the incredible miracle that God performed. Instead, continuing on with John’s account the “the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. [vs. 10-16]
This is the first time that Jesus runs headlong into the religious power class. This was the first step toward the cross. Jesus made it clear that the Sabbath, the day that God set aside as a day of rest, was made for man. However, religious men in their zeal made up religious laws that tried to interpret what God intended. The healed man, who was free for the first time in 38 long years, was now in mortal danger from the religious. He was violation of the 39th rule regarding what to do and what not to do on the Sabbath. He was in danger of being stoned to death. He did not break one of the God-issued 10 commandments. His sin according to the religious was he broke a sacred tradition of men. Now he faced condemnation and possible death, not from God by from the very people who were supposed to be representing God.
This is not a far-fetched story. It happens today. What does it take to strap a bomb on and go in and kill innocent men, women and children? It simply takes believing something that says it will be a way to God. That is legalism. It is not of God.
Think about what freedoms legalism gives me. Legalism gives me the right to boast. Legalism is the glorification of me and how pure I am religiously. [Eph 2:8-9]
Legalism is a poison; it will allow me to judge a man based on my self-interpretation of what God is saying. It is a grace robber. We must be unswervingly faithful to the Word of God not to men’s interpretation of God’s Word.
Legalism hates women. Legalism sets one person as lord over another. Because legalism has no mercy it supports abusing, beating and even killing women in public.
Legalism shows partiality. Abortion is all about partiality. It allows women to make choices to their benefit. And this partiality disavows the life growing inside them. ‘Legalized partiality’ kills what is not convenient.
Why are we so picky about the little things that are really insignificant in God’s eyes? It is about partiality. [ref James] Legalism tells us to pick and choose who we will love based on how well they keep some set of rules that we have developed.
Legalism shows no compassion. Legalism is always looking for someone to pay the price. Legalism in Christianity will say the Cross plus. Legalism is about how good I am in doing the right thing before men. Is that how God wants us to see his grace?
We are called to see where God is at work and get there and join him. What is important? That people will come to Jesus and be saved. It is not about a set of man-created rules and protocol. It is about pressing in to Jesus and experiencing his grace.