Over my trip to DC I began reading Frank Schaeffer's Crazy For God. I can see why many evangelicals are angry at Schaeffer, not only for turning away from (and in some cases against) the religious right, but for his unflinching portrayal of his parents, warts and all.
While Schaeffer spends as much time dwelling on the good aspects of his childhood as he does on the bad, he does not sugarcoat anything. A reader can come away from the book still respecting the Schaeffer family and the work that they did, but one will never again place any of them (including Frank) on a pedestal. Given that the Bible itself sets the precedent for highlighting the flaws of even its greatest heroes, that seems to me to be a good thing.
One point that stands out in the book is how the individuals who had the greatest positive impact in Schaeffer's life were the ones who were the least legalistic. In my own experience and observation I can confirm that those who demonstrate respect and unconditional acceptance for everyone they encounter are the ones who nurture the faiths of others around them, while those who are the most fixated on rules and outward behavior and rights and wrongs are almost inevitably the greatest destroyers (and, in many cases, the greatest hypocrites).
That observation raises a question in my mind - one which I hesitate to raise since it's so easily misunderstood as an endorsement of licentiousness, but one which I cannot leave unasked: at what point does a dedication to sin avoidance become a lifestyle of life avoidance? Can such a self-centered focus lead to any other result?
Do we, in our demand for absolute certainty and our desire for the security of a blanket list of dos and don'ts, become slaves to the very sin we claim to be liberating ourselves from? Do we clip our own wings for fear of the dangers in the sky, only to forget that we were created to fly?
Many Christians who don't believe themselves to be legalistic nonetheless try to reduce holiness to a set of rules. Sin is indeed a serious subject, but by placing our focus on it we increase its power. "Fear not" is one of the most common commands in the New Testament, yet fear of sin and damnation characterizes the Christian life for far too many.
If perfect love does indeed cast out fear, how can legalism under any guise represent true Christianity?