Getting beyond the letter of the law…

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Scripture:  Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Observation: In the Old Testament God gave to the people very specific directions pertaining to most every area of life. The rules and laws God gave to the people were to be followed to the letter or dire punishment would ensue. This tradition of following closely the letter of the law was alive and well in Jesus’ day. That’s why the Pharisees were freaking out at Jesus, who regularly “broke” the letter of the law in favor of the spirit of the law. In this case, restoring the withered hand of the man in our story, though it occurred on the Sabbath – which the Pharisees interpreted as “work” on the Sabbath.

Application: I think we too sometimes get hung up on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law, especially in churches. We tend to do things a particularly way because it’s the way we’ve always done it – whether it continues to make sense or not. This is a particular challenge as the broader culture in the US becomes more secular. To be effective in a post-Christian context, we need to think differently about what it means to be the church and how that identity is lived out in a new day. Sounds easy. It’s not.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, like the Pharisees, we Christians can get hung up on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Give us grace to think outside of our traditional boxes so that we might more effectively share life in Christ with others. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

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