As those of us who like to follow the rules know, you have to really be on your guard around a rule breaker. Someone who flaunts authority and does whatever they think is right at the moment: someone like that needs to be watched closely. The rest of us can sleep a little more soundly when we know tradition is being respected, rules are being kept, and no one is out of line (Luke 18:11).
Unfortunately for Christians who prefer to keep the rules at all costs, we may have a problem in Jesus. In Matthew 15 He's at it again: Jesus meets a Gentile woman whose daughter is sick, and at first He says the right thing; He can't help her. Jesus explains that He, the Messiah, was sent only to the "lost sheep of the House of Israel," so since she's not a part of the right demographic, His hands are tied.
After a little more conversation, though, Jesus relents. He shows that aiding people who need it is more important than following traditions (Mark 3:3). When an opportunity to help someone else conflicts with our own traditions, Jesus seems to be showing us that helping others is the most important thing. Jesus even shows us that since the Law was made for Him in the first place, as long as we are doing His work, we don't have to worry about breaking God's Laws. (Matthew 12:8)
Recently, I was having a conversation with another United Methodist minister, and we were discussing our annual conference where all United Methodist clergy of South Carolina and at least one member from every church, gather to discuss the denomination's business for the coming year. He said, "A lot of people think our meetings are based on Robert's Rules of Order, but they're actually not. In our conference we first follow the United Methodist Book of Discipline, then the Standing Rules of the South Carolina Conference of the UMC, then Robert's Rules." The same thing could be said for our state and federal legal systems, for sporting events, or any other similar situation: certain rules trump others so that we can have order (John 4:23).
And actually, what Jesus teaches and shows us all throughout the Gospels is that when sets of rules or laws come into conflict with one another, there is one Rule that wins out for Jesus each time. That is the Rule of Love (John 8:11). This Rule, or Law, is the one that guides us, too, as we deal with other people, as we walk in our relationship with God, and as we learn to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Read the verses I've included here in the context of the passage where they appear, and allow the Law of God's Love to be the rule of your life.
Michael Hood is pastor of Barnwell United Methodist Church.
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