I know we need rules. Rules help us navigate through life; they help us order our world and our behavior. There is nothing really wrong with rules until they get in the way and become toxic to our relationships. Rules have a way of twisting our perspective of others and distorting our priorities such that the rules become more important than the people in our lives. This is the situation Jesus faces in this interaction with the Pharisees and a sick man.
One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things. (Luke 14:1-6 ESV)
You see, it seems that the Pharisees were setting Him up. They had their rules, their human rules. As far as I understand it wasn’t against the Law, the Mosaic Law, to rescue a person or an ox, but it was against their human rules and I see their unwillingness to answer Jesus confirmed that. They knew that they didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, but the Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus was going to bend to their human imposed rules in dealing with this sick man. For Jesus, this sick man was more important than some human created rule. This sick man had more value than keeping silly rules. And Jesus demonstrated that by healing this man right there in front of their judgmental, condemning eyes. For Jesus, human beings will always be more important that human rules.
Again, I know we need rules and I guess I am talking here about the rules that our churches have created over the years to control the members. Rules that are meant to create boundaries around what is acceptable behavior and thought and what is not. These are the rules that we make to define what God thinks is acceptable! “If you obey these rules, God will love you.” And after a while, these rules take on a life of their own. They become the focus of our Christian life. They determine our guilt or righteousness. And we use these rules to pummel others. Never mind that these rules are killing the soul, separating us from each other and worse, separating us from God. We can never keep up with all our rules.
But that is not how I see Jesus. Yes, there are commandments, rules that God has established. The main one is “Love…” His rules are about allowing us to approach Him and love others. He creates intimacy and draws us closer. His commandments value the human being. So my challenge to you is what rules do you have in your life that have become more important than the people in your life? Are you willing to bend, even change, the rules so that some else finds healing, wholeness and freedom? Are the rules you live under separating you from God or drawing you towards Him?
But the most important question is, Does Jesus care more about you or your rules?