I’ve been going through the New Testament lately and picked up on a theme I had never really paid attention to before. It goes like this-
Jesus and the disciples go out and pick food on Sunday
Pharisees (Christians) shout – THE RULES SAY YOU CAN’T DO THAT
Jesus says- You missed the point of the rules
the next week…
Jesus heals a deformed person
Pharisees (Christians) shout- THE RULES SAY YOU CAN’T DO THAT
Jesus says- seriously guys?
So the Pharisees are like, let’s trap him in his own words, and ask, “so should we pay taxes?”
Jesus- sees the true intent- “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Pharisees- here’s another test- what’s the greatest commandment?
Jesus- “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This happens over and over and over and over again.
Christians freaking out about the rules, Jesus says, you missed the point.
I am an obsessive rule follower. I’m a stereotypical first born who needs to know the rules for all the people in all situations, so this personal revelation resonates with me a lot.
I focus on the rules and also who is or isn’t following them. I am Monica from Friends when she says, “rules are good! Rules help control the fun!” When I see someone break the rules, I like to justify my “explaining the rules” as if my intent is both good and helpful.
Jesus has some really harsh words for the Pharisees- for those people who spend so much time enforcing the rules that they keep missing the point.
Matthew 23 verse 13- “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
How often do rule followers slam the door in the face of others in the name of “love”and “honesty” and “help”? How many people have I hurt because they weren’t following the rules? I’ve read some authors who talk about this, and I see the same comments follow over and over again. “If we really loved them, we wouldn’t let them continue down that path” or “as Christians, we can’t close our eyes when we see people sinning, it’s our job to speak the truth with love”.
How often do we beat people over the head with the rules?
THE RULES SAY YOU CAN’T DO THAT. To me, that doesn’t really feel like love, using “truth” to tear others down in order to teach them the rules.
Maybe, just maybe we are missing the point. Later in Matthew 23- verse 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
If my own heart is purely focused on the rules, then I need to start there. I need to start with the greatest commandments- love God, love people. Otherwise I’m missing the point.