The Christian life must be lived between the two L’s. On the left there is looseness and on the right there is legalism. Both in their own way tug at the hearts and minds of Christians. Stray to the one or to the other and you have strayed from the purposes of God.
By looseness I am referring to an antithetical approach to Biblical obedience. The apostle Paul addresses this attitude in the book of Romans when he asks the question – ‘shall we sin that grace may abound’ (6:1). If we are justified by grace apart from works and grace abounds where sin abounds, does that not mean we are free to sin? God forbid! says Paul. How can we be saved from the power of sin only then to continue in sin. The apostle John tells us that if we willfully live in sin it is evident that we are not actually converted. Jesus warns us that on the Day of judgement people will be exposed for their false profession of faith. That false profession consists in a life of disobedience to the laws of God. Mat 7:22-23 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
At the other end of the spectrum is legalism. Legalism comes in different shapes and sizes, but the basic idea is that something is required of people that God does not require. In its most destructive form, certain practices are taught as necessary for salvation – baptism is an example in some churches; in the New Testament it was circumcision. In its more common form, man-made expectations are taught as necessary for faithfulness. We may feel strongly about something for ourselves personally, but if it is not stipulated in scripture or cannot be clearly deduced as required by God, we have no right to expect it from others. The apostle Paul warned of false teachers seeking to impose their ideas upon the churches.
Whatever form legalism takes and for whatever reason it is practiced, it is dangerous because it undermines grace; it places the will of man above the will of God; it burdens people with unnecessary responsibilities; it creates an attitude of self-righteousness and takes us away from God.
The pathway between the two L’s is complete submission to God’s will on the basis of salvation by grace; it is to remember that Christianity is not about a list of do’s and don’ts but fellowship with our Creator and Saviour. When this is our outlook it leaves no place for looseness or legalism.