Sometimes rules must be set aside if we are to be an agent of God’s grace
Now before you get your boxers or panties in a wad as you read the title of this week’s message…. Yes, I understand that there are reasons that we have rules. There are rules and commandments in the Bible that are imperative for us to adhere to, and for those of us in the Methodist tradition, we also have a Book of Discipline that we are to follow. Many of our local churches also have their own guidelines, policies and procedures that were likely created for very good reason, but sometimes our rules get in the way of our being an agent of God’s grace.
Jesus was a rebel against rules that did not make sense in certain contexts. He did not mind bucking the system, turning over tables and confronting the religious leaders when rules got in the way of extending grace. I am reminded of when Jesus healed on the Sabbath, when he refused to cast a stone against the adulterous woman, asking first “who among you is without sin?” I am reminded of how Jesus hung out with “sinners” (as if we aren’t all sinners) and tax collectors and how he spent time with the woman at the well. The gospels are filled with stories of Jesus choosing a different way from some of the religious leaders.
We need to do some examination when our rules become exclusionary. Some of the rules that were in place in Old Testament times may have made sense at the time but became irrelevant in a changing context. We also need to keep the Haustafeln
(the rules and morays of the day) in mind as we consider the Pauline and Deutero-Pauline writings, as Dr. “Mickey” Efird taught me over and over again.
Jesus did not break rules for the sake of being a rebel. Rather, Jesus always put God’s Kingdom first. As Jesus got to know the stories, sorrow, pain and suffering of various people that he encountered, he felt led to break the religious tradition. Jesus allowed compassion, mercy, love and grace guide his decisions.
We need to examine any religious laws, rules and traditions that lead us towards excluding others from ways that extend God’s grace. We should err on the side of compassion, mercy and grace, using Jesus as our example. And, we should pay attention to the stirring of the Holy Spirit who will prod us when our “rule following” is getting in the way of Kingdom work.
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” –Romans 13:10
“Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law-For the same love which restrains from all evil, incites us to all good.” -Wesley’s notes
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