In my many years of being part of churches I have met my fair share of legalists – people who like to make rules where the Bible doesnt as a way of (at best) stopping others from sinning – or at worst (and much more often) as a way of controlling others and imposing their own moralistic preferences upon them.
I went thru my own rather bizarre legalistic period as a teenager, but I am more and more coming to believe that the ability to truly leave legalism behind is a mark of Christian maturity – although the legalists will call it ‘liberal’ or some other equally nebulous but deprecatory term.
Legalists are often the ones ‘taking stands’ against things and seeking to uphold the moral integrity of the church, however you will never see a legalist taking a stand against self righteousness – in fact they are oblivious to the existence of such a concept.
I am increasingly seeing this as one the worst types of cancers that can infect a community and it is a practice I find almost impossible to tolerate. Once one group of people set themselves as the arbiters of godly behaviour then others are pressured to conform to their false standards of holiness (ironically often defined by the very things they personally struggle with)