Awhile back, my class at church went through the book of Luke. At the beginning of Chapter 6, two stories are presented about Jesus and the Sabbath.
Working on the Sabbath
In the first story, some of Jesus’ followers were hungry, so they picked some grain and ate it. Some of the religious leaders got mad because the rule said you weren’t supposed to work on the Sabbath.
Healing on the Sabbath
In the second story, Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand. Again, some of the religious leaders got mad because in their view, you weren’t supposed to heal on the Sabbath.
Focused on the Rule
In both of these stories, the religious leaders were focused on the rule. The rule said you weren’t supposed to do any work on the Sabbath. Jesus confronts the religious leaders by pointing past the rule, to the underlying principle behind the rule. In other words, the point behind the Sabbath was to help people love God and each other by following the principle that we need rest. That’s the principle behind the rule. But the religious leaders didn’t understand this. They were focused on the rule, even if it meant going against the principle behind the rule.
I think as Christians, we make this mistake a lot. We have an underlying principle or value we think is really important, so we create a rule (or a set of rules) to help us live our lives in accordance with the principle or value. The rule is simpler—it’s something we can check off our list and feel good about. However, we often get so focused on the rule, we lose sight of the principle behind the rule. Sometimes the rule might even push us in the opposite direction of where we want to go.
3 Questions to Ask
Rules are okay, but only if they help us work toward the principle or value behind the rule. When you find yourself focusing on a rule, ask yourself these three questions:
- What is the principle or value behind this rule? If you have trouble identifying the principle or value behind the rule, it might be time to re-think the rule.
- Is this rule helping move me closer toward the principle or value I really care about? If the rule isn’t working to help move you closer to the principle or value you really care about, it might be time to re-think the rule.
- Where is my focus: the rule or the principle behind the rule? If your focus is more on the rule vs. the principle behind the rule, it might be time to re-think the rule.
What do you think about rules? Do they help you live the life you really want, or do you sometimes lose the forest for the trees? How can we re-think rules so they help us rather than hold us back?