Taken from Pete’s series What Will Jesus Do?.
To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Rule keepers struggle to love rule breakers. But if the Church is called to love a world full of rule breakers, then examining the Church’s own unspoken rules is important. As we do, we should ask: “What do these rules say about the Church? Are we rule police or lovers of rule breakers?”
I sat down and wrote some church rules I’ve experienced. I bet you could come up with a list too.
- Tattoos are evil.
- Don’t wear hats in church.
- In the South, Christians are Republicans.
- In the Northeast or Northwest, Jesus was a Democrat.
- Never read The Message – it’s not a translation; it’s a paraphrase.
- Small groups are better than Sunday school.
- No drums on stage. Or, depending on your worship style, no organs allowed.
Jesus had an entirely different perspective on rules. In Luke 6:1, He walked with His disciples through a grain field on the Sabbath. While they walked, His disciples picked some heads of grain, rubbed them, and ate the kernels.
The Pharisees—the rule police of the day—saw what the disciples were doing and said, “Hey, hey, hey! Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” (6:2).
Unlawful = breaking the rules.
What rules were the disciples breaking? It wasn’t eating the grain. Mosaic Law gave the people of Israel permission to gather grain from a neighbor’s field by hand and eat it.
The broken rule is found in the phrase “on the Sabbath.” Jewish leaders had expanded upon Mosaic Law, defining “gray areas” like the meaning of “work.” According to these expanded laws, the disciples were in violation
of four Sabbath rules: (1) picking grain, (2) separating grain, (3) allowing the husk to drop to the ground, and (4) preparing food to eat.
So why was Jesus letting His disciples break Sabbath rules? Because Jesus understood that legalism focuses on arbitrariness. Take another look at my list of church rules. Are they expanded rules—rules focused on the arbitrary?
Lord, do I follow arbitrary rules? Do I make arbitrary rules? As I consider my marriage, my parenting, my work ethic, and my relationships inside the community and my church, I ask You to name my rules. I want to name them so I am clear on what I’m releasing to You for the sake of loving well and living freely. Amen.