Freedom is the emancipation from the arbitrary rule of other men. —Mortimer Adler
I have a pastor friend who did a church swap. He and his wife went to Scotland for a summer, and the pastor from Scotland came here to Dallas. I wonder who experienced more culture shock?
One Sunday afternoon during the swap, my friend was dining at a congregant’s house, and he saw a deck of playing cards. He said, “Oh, cards! We should play a game.”
The lady of the house looked at him and said, “Vicar, we do not play cards on a Sunday. But, if you brought your Bible, we can have fellowship.”
“Sure,” my friend said. “Fellowship it is.”
So they entered the drawing room, sat down, and the man of the house came out with four whiskey glasses. He poured two fingers into each glass and said, “Turn to Genesis 3.”
This story is funny because the rule is random. How do we make sense of subjective rules?
Legalism gets caught up in the arbitrary. And here is the problem: Jesus says our arbitrary rules get in the way of loving people.
In Luke 6:2, the Pharisees questioned Jesus, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?” (Luke 6:3).
In 1 Samuel 21, David was searching for food to feed his men. He knew the priest had bread, so he went to the priest. But the only food available was the Bread of the Presence—holy bread—otherwise known as “you aren’t allowed to eat it” bread. David desired to feed his men, so he petitioned the priest to break the rules. David was the king, so the priest circumvented the law and fed the hungry men.
This was the story Jesus chose to tell the Pharisees. And then He said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5). In other words, “Hey, I’m the King. I feel free to circumvent the law if it allows Me to love people.”
Jesus rules the day; thus, He has the authority to circumvent the rules.
Loving Savior, it’s possible I hold on to rules because they are safe; I wrap up in them like a spiritual blanket, trusting the rules to help me live a spiritual life. Untangle me from arbitrariness. I choose to trust in Your authority. Through me, guide others away from legalism and into freedom. Amen.
Learn more from Pete’s teaching on Luke, What Will Jesus Do?