Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The importance of knowing when to break the rules

As the saying goes, "There is the letter of the law, and then there is the spirit of the law".

The Anglican church, among others, is bound on all sides by laws: what do to, when to do it, and who can do it.

A perfect example is the Ten Commandments, which of course comes to us from our roots in ancient Judaism.  One of these Commandments is "You shall keep the Sabbath day holy".

This "law" was introduced as an assurance that people would have at least one day of rest a week.  Ancient peoples knew well that all work and no play resulted in a scene from "The Shining".

But somewhere along the way, this piece of advice which was meant to refresh people turned into a point of argument: what does it mean to keep the day holy?  Does this mean no work?  What constitutes work?  What constitutes non-work?  Is it work to go fishing or play golf?  Is it work to cook yourself lunch?  If your roof caves in and you are getting rained on, should you just wait until the Sabbath is over to fix it?  If the roof has collapsed on your children, should you wait until the next day to save them?

Ok, I'm going a little overboard, but not by much.

The point is this: some laws keep us safe from other people, and vice versa.  Generally speaking, the law protects us.

But some laws, some rules simply don't, and it behooves us to use a little critical reasoning when it comes to discerning the difference.

In today's Gospel passage (Luke 13:10-17), the miracle performed is actually the background to the more important point that Jesus is making: the women who came to the Temple had been suffering for 18 years.  Would it really be God's wish for her to suffer another 24 hours just so she does not transgress the law concerning the Sabbath?  Could our own sense of justice, compassion and mercy really allow that to happen, simply for the sake of adhering to a "law".

Blind allegiance to anything is not a healthy way to live, whether that be to the tenets of a religion, a law, a philosophy, a person, a cause, an ideal.  Jesus certainly did not.  There is a reason why we have the characteristics of curiosity, skepticism, critical thinking and discernment.

Use them.

To hear my sermon for this week, click here.

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