The dictionary says that legalism is strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit. To me legalism just stands for oppressive rules that some ‘Christians’ try to make everyone follow. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible definitely states some things as black and white. For example, I don’t think there’s much question about whether murder, adultery, and stealing are wrong. There’s a lot of things that aren’t black and white though, and I don’t think anyone has any business saying they are.
For instance, think about television and movies. Does the Bible say what we should or should not watch? Nope! I think God leaves that up to each person’s conscience, and it’s their business, not anyone else’s. Some people put the line here, and others put it there. Actually, my family has a pretty strict line compared to most people. But that’s okay, I don’t really view my parent’s standard as legalistic, because they don’t tell us that everyone else is wrong, or that God likes our way better.
That’s what really gets to me about legalism, is when people say that they are better because of their little rules and laws that they invented. They invented, not God! I think I’ve mentioned before that pants won’t send you to hell? :-) It’s true! But there seems to be a lot of people who think that wearing skirts is an important part of being a good Christian! And of course, since it’s so important to them, you know how they view people who don’t wear skirts... (Although I should be careful not to be legalistic myself by saying that everyone who wears skirts are condemning people, because not everyone is!)
That brings up another point. Legalism doesn't leave room for the fact that God made individuals. If you say that God wants everyone to get married, you don't leave any room for the person who doesn't ever get married. If you say that God wants everyone to homeschool, you don't leave any room for the mom who can do a better job with her kids in public school. If you say that God wants everyone to wear yellow, you don't leave any room for the person whose complexion looks horrible with yellow! Lol. God made individuals to be individuals, and he didn't make stupid rules about what colors we should wear, what we should watch or listen to, what we should eat, etc.
So anyway, this is kind of rambling and confused; but the point is, Jesus died so we could be free from the Law, and I find it really aggravating when people who say Jesus saved them want to impose the very legalisms and laws he saved us from, on everyone all over again. Maybe what I really want to say is that everything is not black and white, and that God doesn’t mind if we have a little bit of gorgeous color in our lives! =)