31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32 (NASB)
Legalism is something that is not as easy to define as we first think it is. Many definitions talk about a system of laws that must be obeyed in place of simply belief in order to have salvation or eternal life. However, I contend that there is a form of legalism that most of us are guilty of committing in our interrelationships with other believers….
That legalism is that we try to force others to submit to us in one-way or another. We become a law unto ourselves. If we take this to an extreme then we will find ourselves using threats or even extortion to get others to bow to our will. When those we are abusing refuse to submit we label them as proud, arrogant, or worse when all along they are simply refusing to, perhaps, not compromise the truth. They may be only responding in self-defense against accusations of which they know that they are guiltless. Soon, they are in a no-win scenario. If they defend themselves then they are accused even more. If they give in then they admit to a lie and that is abhorrent. If they walk away then they will be quickly accused of being proud, arrogant, and dishonest. What must they do?
We make a mistake in trying always to clear ourselves. We should be wiser to go straight on, humbly doing the next thing, and leaving God to vindicate us. “He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon day.” There may come hours in our lives when we shall be misunderstood, slandered, falsely accused. At such times it is very difficult not to act on the policy of the men around us in the world. They at once appeal to law and force and public opinion. But the believer takes his case into a higher court and lays it before his God. – Dr. F.B. Meyer
This may be hard for us, but as we mature as believers I guarantee that each of us will find ourselves in a position of perplexity at some point where we are being falsely accused by one or more persons that we thought were our fellow believers. However, instead of seeking retribution or to have ourselves cleared the way the world does, we must do as Christ did and how He teaches us to handle this. The main rule of conduct our Lord gave His disciples and us is that we are to move on in our faith instead of being complacent, mired in spiritual immaturity. The very situation that has brought clouds of doubt, confusion, and perplexity into our lives is actually a tool in God’s hands to prune us that we bear more fruit.