The rule of having to wear masks when going out into public (with some exceptions in the US and elsewhere) is grating. Really. Who wants to wear a mask all day? No one wants to.
Many are concerned that we are being conditioned to wear masks and have our freedoms curtailed. That concern is reasonable, up to a point. What’s particularly interesting is the social experiment regarding rules.
The political “right” is generally a law and order type of people. Yet, that group is resisting the mask rule. The political “left” is (theoretically) more of a “no rules” yet practices many rigid rules.
This is not to pick on either, but to show that even in our “crystal clear” political bents, we are often not clear ourselves. Yet, one of the core pieces of Christian theology, especially Protestant theology, is freedom from the Law.
Of course, someone will often respond that the Law is different than rules. Yes, the Law is a series of religious rules that defined appropriate behavior and a penalty for when that behavior was violated.
The “trick” became that the people treated the Law as if it were the relationship that mattered, rather than their relationship to God. That is also a simplification of it. Another way to say may be, they focused on the rules so much that they neglected the relationship.
Jesus gets the rules of divorce question. Is that really the question, though? Is the question more along the lines of, “what can I do that I think makes me happy while still getting to Heaven?” The question of divorce is a question of relationship on one hand and what can be gotten away with. The way Pharisees brought this to Jesus was about the law. It wasn’t about a man looking for a younger wife or a prettier one, or even one the nagged him less. It was about using the Law to break relationship.
When anyone becomes more concerned about the rules (whether to follow them or disobey them) than the relationships that the rules are about, we lose sight of people. Zechariah’s praise (from Luke 1) is all about the relationship. Zechariah would have been one of those concerned about the rules (he was a priest). The relationship with God and God with God’s people mattered more.
The other side of the rules, and a significant focus of the Protestant reformation, was the thought that one could earn their way into Heaven by following rules, rituals, or purchasing one’s way in. The last of these 3 is not Paul’s concern in his letter to the Galatians. What concerned him was that the Galatians seemed to have tossed out grace and relationship and embraced rules.
This is not to say rules are not important. They provide guidance and boundaries, which we seem to need to thrive. Yet, if we adhere to the rules (or oppose the rules) without understanding the why and the who that the rules are about we skip the people that we are called to love.
1) Thinking of relationships regarding authority, how do rules and relationships work with and against each other?
2) What rules that bother you? Why? What relationships might those rules impact?
Jesus, you came to earth to show us the Way of Life. Help us to find both the freedom and constraints of following you. Amen.