The second false priority of Christians that gives a negative brand to Christianity is legalistic Christians. Before we begin, let me define legalism. Legalism is not good moral living and following the commands and laws of scripture in order to live in a way that pleases God and seeks holiness. Legalism is a life of embracing the rules for the only purpose of proving to the legalist and to others that the legalist is better than everyone else because the legalist keeps the rules and others do not. The legalist loves to be seen doing good deeds and loves to point out others failures in doing good deeds.
This false priority of legalism leads to forgetting grace. A legalist loves to follow the rules to the point where they feel like they do not need grace. “Why would Jesus have to die on the cross for them?” they think. “I am such a good person who follows all of the rules. I will make heaven a better place just by my presence there. I do not need Jesus because I am a good moral person with no real sin to speak of.” The legalist does not stop with not needing grace personally but goes on to totally fail to extend any grace to others. If someone else falls in their good works, the legalist will be the first to point out the flaw and make sure that everyone sees this great show of failure. Then only to look for a place to note to others how good the legalist is at morality and how the legalist would never fall like that.
Legalism causes problems because it presents a picture of Christianity that does not need Jesus. There is no reason to tell someone about Jesus because to the legalist Jesus is functionally a moral judge that the legalist is trying to impress rather than a rescuing Savior that the legalist is falling down in worship before. The life of a legalist also projects that sin is not a personal problem that effects everyone. Sin is something that “bad people” do in the mind of the legalist. It is not something that everyone struggles with and needs to be rescued from.
Legalist Christians need to realize that, if they truly believe that there morality sets them in right standing before God, they need to repent and run to Jesus and receive salvation. The way that the life of a legalist is structured has no room for sin, repentance, and Jesus. Christians who embrace legalism are not really Christians. They are just copy-cats trying to act like Christians without truly embracing Jesus and coming to him to be their salvation. These false Christians need to repent and stop putting a stain on the Christian name and brand that they copy in outward appearance but fail to embrace.