I have this thing where I like to go against the norm by uniting two extremes in my mind to find greater truth.
It doesn't always work, but at times it stretches my mind, and I learn new things I wouldn't have known otherwise.
For the most part I have found that most man-made doctrines aren't 100% void of error. And that quite often the belief that opposes the said doctrine will hold the truths that are missing. And vice versa. Our minds are so small that it can be hard to comprehend how two extremes can work together in unity and harmony.
But they can.
There are many mysteries in life that will always astound the human mind, whether you are Christian, agnostic, atheist, etc. Unsolved mysteries are part of what make life meaningful and vast.
1. Strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.
Rigid rules are important and necessary for life to happen smoothly. And there must be consequences and accountability when said rules are broken.
We are all aware of this in different ways:
Government. They have their rules. Some may have common sense behind them. At other times we are like, "What!? Why?" But we still go through what we are told to do from fear of consequences.
Church. Whether you are involved through membership or just on a community and accountability level, there are rules that we find we must respect and adhere to.
Parents or family. Sometimes there rules feel really legalistic... and in the bad way. But we still obey the rules, even if they aren't backed according to our logic. Sometimes we obey out of fear of consequence, sometimes respect. Either way it's the way of life and we don't look down on this form of legalism too much.
So, when I hear a Christian preach and say we should abhor legalism, I always wince.
Because rules are not bad.
Being strict is not bad.
Those who choose to do less or more when there is no morals being violated should not be condemned.
In fact, I think we are meant to be legalistic in the sense that we are to adhere to (strictly follow) rules and follow those rules like crazy.
The problem comes when you try to force your extra rules onto another. The issue is not legalism, but trying to control another.
1. The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
synonyms: acceptance, toleration;
late Middle English (denoting the action of bearing hardship, or the ability to bear pain and hardship): via Old French from Latin tolerantia, from tolerare (see tolerate).
We have to remember that controlling is not our duty toward our fellow neighbor. No where are we commanded to exercise our will over another, tell him that he needs to do as we do.
Yes, we are called to judge others in righteousness (John 7:24, Matthew 7:1-5, Luke 12:57). Rebuke another when wrong has been committed (Proverbs 27:5, Galatians 6:1, Luke 17:3-4). And even take ourselves out of another's life in certain situations (1 Corinthians 5:2, Matthew 18:15-19).
But never are we meant to control anyone, force someone to conform to our ideas and rules and methods of serving God.
And so, we need that perfect balance: To be both legalistic and tolerant. One with out the other is chaos. Those who are completely legalistic have an appearances of extreme fundamentalist Christians, who know no love, and show no restraint in controlling all about them to repent to their methods or burn in hell.
But those who are solely tolerant: It's as if they love everyone and judge no one, as if they have no back bone, no solid beliefs, nothing to give them the appearance of “I am separate from the world.”
One can be both a judge of righteousness, and a lover of man.
You can be strict and easy going.
I can be different from my friends with out condemning them, accepting that some things are more preferential beliefs. - I do have to be careful here to not mistake the difference between what God clearly calls sin as a preferential belief on my part.
Some things are just plain old-fashioned sin.
I really think that it is very impossible to be a balanced follower of God without both of these extremes influencing each part of our everyday life, because in essence God is both (amidst His numerous other traits) a rule giver and a lover of creative diversity.
God is love.
But God is also the one who created rules, demands order, and judges all.