I have often thought that the invoking of the concept of "Pharisee" or "religious people" has become a sort of boogey man to justify all sorts of rash behavior. Instead of seeing a Christian who an overly sensitive conscience as a weaker brother who deserves my love and according to Paul I should work hard not to offend them, it is much easier to see them as a "Pharisee" or "religious" then I can smugly self-justify my arrogance and harshness against them. The idea is: 'Hey I'm being just like Jesus'.
This is of course far easier than actually being like Jesus and loving the sinner. In fact, if I just rail on everything with the charge of legalism, then I can actually become a Pharisees in a sort of backwards way. I never have to be self critical. I never have to ask: is it possible that I am in the wrong? Maybe my conscience is "weak" here because this doesn't bother me. No, it is far easier to label the other person's conscience as overly sensitive and therefore legalistic.
To my delight, I read this from Jared Wilson this morning:
"Legalism lurks in every heart, actually, mine and yours. But this constant invoking of the judgmental "religious people" is very often a boogeyman. It's an imagined threat, a scare tactic employed to both justify dumb exercises in license and arouse the self-satisfied mockery of self-identified "grace people."" (emphasis mine)
This attitude is of course sinful but it is far easier that actually following Scripture if the other person is a true weaker brother (and they may not be if I am in the wrong because my conscience doesn't bother me).
Romans 14:13-23 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
The reality is the sometimes our zeal to tear down "religious people" might indeed become a stumbling block to a real brother. It might destroy the work of God.
Real legalism is a danger and to be confronted. But brothers and sisters in Christ with more sensitive consciences are not necessarily legalists and they should not be treated as such for the sake of our own self-justification.
Jared Wilson ends his post:
"Pharisee," "legalist," "religious person" is the church version of racist or Nazi. It is the rhetorical nuclear option specifically designed to shut up anyone with questions and paint them among their brothers and sisters as graceless jerks. But I think it actually works the other way around:
Employing the "religious people" boogeyman ironically indulges in what it professes to decry. It is a great way to pray along with the self-justified pharisee, "I thank you God that I'm not like those religious people."
Read the rest here.If you've got real legalists in your church -- and you do -- the only way to intentionally offend them is by preaching the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ. Everything else is just vain posturing and prideful provocation.