As Christians, we tend to like things to be black and white. My aunt was recently telling me how she was always the rule-breaker and her twin sister was the rule-follower. She recounted a specific time when they were teenagers and stuck at a red light late at night. The aunt telling the story said she and their friend kept insisting to my rule-following aunt that she just run the red light. Their justification was that it was so late, no one was around, and what was she so afraid of anyway? My rule-following aunt explained she wasn’t afraid at all. She just respected the law.
I completely related to my rule-following aunt. This is an easy one. Black and white. It is wrong to break the law and run a red light. It is right to wait until it turns green. What’s funny is my husband related to my rule-breaking aunt. I could just imagine him and me in this exact situation. I tend to think rules were made to be followed. He tends to think the rules are made to be broken. And when I look at it biblically, of course, I could find tons of evidence to support my point of view.
But hearing my aunt’s story actually led my husband and me to have a really interesting discussion about rule-breakers and rule-followers in the Bible. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so black and white. We could each come up with a number of examples of how both breaking the rules and following the rules was the right thing to do.
Here is one example I found especially poignant. John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was so serious about being set apart for the Lord’s work that he didn’t drink alcohol (Luke 1:15). Many of the statements about John the Baptist show he had taken a Nazirite vow, a vow taken voluntarily in order to be separated from God’s work (as described in Numbers 6:1-21).
And yet Jesus explained it this way, “For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it” (Luke 7:33-35). People thought John was crazy or even demon-possessed because of his extreme rule-following. But some of the same people wouldn’t give Jesus the time of day because it seemed like he didn’t care about the rules.
I also think about how Jesus healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10). The Pharisees hated this because it looked to them like Jesus was breaking the rules. For me, my rule-following aunt, and the Pharisees, rules are easy to follow. It’s so simple! Do you know what isn’t so simple? Following wisdom, like Jesus said.
I maintain that it is wise to stop at a red light, even at midnight. But even Jesus broke the rules—or at least what was expected of him—when he had a greater purpose. If you are a rule-follower like me, there are lessons to be learned from those rule-breakers. Take a few minutes today to read the entire account from Matthew 12. And if you are a rule-breaker, there is something to be learned from John the Baptist and his consecration to God. Either way, let wisdom be your guide as Jesus instructed.
by Lauren Bratten
“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding” (Proverbs 3:13)
Lord, I want my life to be dictated by wisdom, not by rules or by my desire to break them. Teach me how to make decisions by following your Holy Spirit.
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