Rom 14 3 The one who eats everything must not despise~| the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge~| the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him.
It is a false concept that righteousness and acceptance before God can be attained if certain requirements are met or specific rites or personal sacrifices are made. Since we are granted His perfect righteousness by faith in Christ (2 Cor 5:21), nothing can improve on our permanent standing.
A second false belief of legalism is the notion that a believer can become more spiritual or acceptable to God by abstaining from certain things or by practicing prescribed behaviors. By grace we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6). Christian legalism believes spirituality is defined by how separate (or different) we are from the rest of the world; however, we can never improve on His gift of righteousness to become more acceptable.
The symptom of having succumbed to legalism is finding fault with those who do not follow the letter of the legalists’ viewpoint. In Paul’s day, Gentile and Jewish believers were critical of each other. For example, Gentiles would not eat meat offered to idols for fear of contamination, but Jewish Christians thought nothing of it (Rom 14:17, 21).
Paul taught principles of personal convictions without a sense of self–righteousness or judgmental feelings toward others. We are prohibited from “despising” those who eat everything or those who abstain. There is no justification for legalistic criticism of each other. Such feelings are the result of persistent false beliefs about spirituality.
Paul’s second command was for the weaker brother, who refused to be “unspiritual” by eating such food, to “cease being judgmental,” which means “to separate or isolate.” The word is a legal term used when a person is found guilty of a crime.
The problem of legalism is that we, as believers, accept an attitude different from God’s: “God has accepted him,” then so should we. Our goal is always to assume God’s perspective. It is self–righteous and arrogant for believers with differing opinions not to fully accept each other as brothers and sisters. Let us commit to helping each other be obedient to what we know from Scripture to be true, without despising each other.
“Lord, it is so easy to be critical and to reject believers who I feel are either too strict or too liberal in their lifestyles. Teach me to be open and gracious toward all who want to follow You.”