Our society is getting obsessed by rules. I grew up in 1960s, we broke the rules. Go to Barnes &Noble and just note how many books have the word rules in the title. You’ll find 10 rules for dieting, dating, and getting your dog to behave. One of the best sellers on Amazon this year was “Robert’s Rules of Order.” Why now?
I’m betting that it has to do with our current political polarization. Whether you are arguing about immigration or the Russia investigation, one or both sides will be running to the rulebook to make their case. The NFL just passed a rule regarding players kneeling during the anthem. Notice that they didn’t pass a rule to prevent hot dogs and beer from the being sold during the anthem, or the announcers speaking over the playing of the anthem, or the coaches using the 10 extra minutes they can get with all the players in the locker room to prep for the game.
All of this has something to do with Jesus. Mark begins his gospel by showing us Jesus breaking the rules. There was a lot of religious rules back then that most people ignored — But if you were a religious teacher, you were expected to keep all the rules, plus make up a few more, just to prove yourself more holy. Jesus didn’t play this game.
For Jesus, religion is not about the rules that we keep, religion is about the compassion that we show. Consider the rule about keeping a Sabbath (rule four of the big ten). Note that in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the commandment states that the sabbath is meant to be applied by the government upon everyone. Migrants are not to be made to care for the fields. Slaves are not to cook your dinner. So, no one should work for you on the sabbath. If you are working in a business where someone has to mind the store on Sunday, if you are a nurse or an EMT, and everyone takes their turn working the sabbath; don’t use your religion to get out of taking your turn.
Jesus goes into a place of worship and notices that there is someone there who needs healed. So he works on the Sabbath. I believe that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus still comes into our places of worship. He still looks around and notes that someone here needs healed. And he heals on the Sabbath.
Religion is not about the rules that we keep, Religion is about the compassion that we show.