Tag Archives: legalism

A Spinoff on the Definition of Love

Story of the Day for Thursday July 5, 2012

A  Spinoff on the Definition of Love

                  . . . and whatever other commandment God may give is summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

                                               Romans 13:9


In Joliet, Illinois, it’s illegal to mispronounce the name of the city. You can be fined five dollars for saying “jolly-ETTE.”

Some people grumble that lawmakers and bureaucrats pass regulations with the sole purpose of being obnoxious and aggravating the general public. I disagree. More often than not, people draft regulations because they want to improve conditions, ensure our safety, and assist the handicapped.

Rules, however, even when well-intentioned, don’t always achieve their purpose.

The Amish, as part of their religious practice, reject much of modern society. They don’t use electricity or drive cars.

In 2003, the state of New York mandated new building codes requiring all new houses to have electricity and indoor plumbing. Further, all new buildings must meet new codes and be certified by an architect or engineer. The old code for window size was four foot square. The new code mandated bedroom windows be 7.7 foot square.

Bedroom window size isn’t a big deal — unless your Amish. The Old Order Amish of Chautauqua, New York, believe that keeping the ways of the 19th century is vital to their religion — including the design of their houses. The bedroom windows of their houses falls an inch-and-a-half shy of the new code. The state argued it was necessary in order to escape if the house caught on fire.

The Amish think the new code is senseless; they can climb through their old windows just fine. And the local fire department claims they would have no trouble climbing into their windows. But the Amish don’t believe in telephones. Their houses almost always burn down before the fire department can be notified.

The local town board sympathized with the Amish and approved their new homes. But the New York Department of State charged the community of Chautauqua with being in violation of state law.

I don’t know how the issue was resolved. I do know that when bureaucrats have power to make regulations, they often make people’s lives worse rather than better.

I’d hate to live in Joliet and have a lisp.

Have you ever thought of God as a bureaucrat — making laws designed to burden you and make you unhappy? Well, he’s not like that at all. Every command that God gives is a spinoff on the definition of love. God only forbids behavior that doesn’t promote love.

If you want to help others, God won’t force you to rehang your windows first. When you want to love your neighbor, you don’t even have to ask for permission.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

That’s What Love Does

Story of the Day for Friday March 9, 2012

That’s What Love Does

                 The chief priests and elders of the people approached Jesus while he was teaching and asked, “By what authority do you do these things?” 

                                                                   Matthew 21:23

Derek Redman posted the fastest time in the first round of the 440 meter sprints at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona.

In the semi-final run, Redman is racing at the front of the pack when suddenly he  goes down on the track – grabbing his hamstring. When the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Derek tells them, “I’m going to finish this race.”

Slowly, Redman stands up and begins to hobble down the track.

Derek’s face is twisted in pain, when, suddenly, his father jumps over the railing and runs onto the track to help. When Derek recognizes his dad holding onto him he collapses in tears in his father’s arms.

Jim Redman tells his son, “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes. I do.”

“Then,” his father said, “We’ll finish together.”

And so, arm in arm, father and son slowly make their way to the finish line.


The 65,000 spectators in the stadium have risen to their feet with a thunderous roar. The television announcer for the race says, “He’s getting THE cheer of the Games!”

The poignant finish of Derek Redman and his father is considered one of the most moving events in all of Olympic history.


But not everyone saw it that way. When Jim ran to help his son, security guards chased after him to remove him. He was, after all, not allowed on the racetrack.  Even after Jim reaches his son, an official runs up to them, and you can see Derek’s dad trying to swat him away.

The rules clearly state that a runner is not allowed to receive assistance in a race. And even though Derek was lying on his back in agony while the other racers finished, he still was officially racing, was he not?

Weren’t the officials who tried to force Jim Redman off the track simply doing their duty? Following the rules?

Perhaps. But that’s the problem with legalism: it sees rules, but not people. Legalism follows the letter of the law, but is blind to circumstances.

Legalism could never make sense of Jesus.


Some see the Bible as nothing more than a list of rules to be obeyed. But, at its heart, the Bible invites us into a relationship. Jesus came to break down the barriers that keep us from fellowship with him. He came to restore the relationship between God and man.


Yes, Derek Redman and his dad broke the rules. From time to time, that’s what love does.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Bear Any Sacrifice

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 7, 2012

Bear Any Sacrifice

                          Jesus said, “Why do you nullify the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” 

                                                     Matthew 15:3

 While many in the American colonies considered the Indians to be savage sub-humans, William Penn always treated them with kindness and respect. He learned their language so he could talk to them without an interpreter.

Even though he bought land from King Charles II of England, and named it “Penn’s forest,” or “Pennsylvania,” he realized the land was inhabited by the Delaware tribes, and bought the land a second time from the Indians. Penn purchased land west and north of Philadelphia “as far as a man can go in a day and a half.” Both Penn and the Delaware tribe were satisfied with this purchase.

After Penn’s death, however, the provincial secretary James Logan, used the wording of the treaty to establish the infamous Walking Treaty of 1737. He had a path cleared in the forest in a straight line. Then he hired the three fastest runners in the colony to run as far as they could in a day and a half.

On September 19, 1737, Edward Marshall outdistanced his companions and ran a full 70 miles — creating an area of 1,200,000 acres (which is roughly equivalent to the size of Rhode Island).

Not surprisingly, the Delaware tribes were outraged. Nevertheless, the Delaware chiefs consented to the agreement, and were forced to move west of their tribal homelands.

Did James Logan honor the treaty that Penn made with the Delaware tribes? In a strict sense he could claim that he obeyed the law. But in his heart he knew this was robbery.


In 1147, Pope Eugene III traveled to Paris. He arrived on Friday, which was inconvenient because Friday was a day of fasting. So, in order to allow the citizens of Paris the opportunity to celebrate his coming, he decreed that Friday was Thursday.


We learn how to wiggle out of agreements from a young age. When I was a kid, you could break a promise if you crossed your fingers behind your back when you made it.


The religious leaders from Jerusalem knew that God commanded children to take care of their parents in their old age. But they wiggled out of the law by claiming that, if someone dedicated their possessions to God, they didn’t have to support their parents.

Jesus wasn’t buying it.


The Bible repeatedly tells us to fulfill our promises. It makes sense: God doesn’t want us to cheat other people.

But I think there’s even more to it. As we learn that keeping a promise takes a sacrifice, we better understand that Jesus made a promise to rescue us . . . and he would bear any sacrifice to fulfill it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Learning When to Break the Rules

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 13, 2011

Learning When to Break the Rules

                    The Lord Almighty says, “Is there no more wisdom in Teman? Has wise counsel perished from those with common sense? Has their wisdom decayed?”

                                                                             Jeremiah 49:7

 On April 5, 2008, Christopher Ratté took his seven-year-old son, Leo, to a Detroit Tigers baseball game.  Leo wanted a lemonade, so Christopher bought him one at the concession stand.

Mr. Ratté is a professor of classics at the University of Michigan. As an archeologist, he is absorbed with the past, and this may help explain why he had no idea that Mike’s Hard Lemonade was an alcoholic drink.


A security guard noticed the boy with the alcoholic drink, and soon Christopher and his son were surrounded by a cluster of security guards. The two were escorted from the game and Leo was examined by a nurse, who found no evidence of inebriation.

No matter. Leo was forcibly taken by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital in Detroit. In the emergency room, they found no evidence of alcohol in his blood. Nevertheless, Leo was taken into a private room by officers from the Child Abuse Division.

By this time, Leo’s mom had been contacted and arrived at the hospital, but even she was denied permission to see or speak with her son. The boy was placed in the custody of the Wayne County Child Protective Services. Scared and confused, little Leo cried himself to sleep.

To lessen their son’s trauma, the parents called Leo’s aunt in Massachusetts – who drove all night to take custody of her nephew. The aunt was not only a social worker, but a licensed foster care provider. Yet, she was refused custody of her nephew.

A couple of days later, a juvenile court judge ruled that the little boy could return home – but only if the father moved out of the house and agreed not to speak to his son.

After two weeks of anguish, the authorities quietly dismissed the case.

The response of the officials, police, social workers, and judges was all the same: they hated to do what they did. They all claimed they were just following rules. No one, apparently, had given them the authority to exercise reason, compassion, or common sense.

What was the purpose of these rules that everyone felt obligated to follow? We can only assume that the rules were made to protect children. And yet, it was not an unwitting academic dad who harmed this little child; this child was severely traumatized by the very agencies whose mission was to protect him.


Laws and rules, of course, are absolutely essential. Yet, the Bible says that all the rules that God makes can be summed up in one phrase: Love your neighbor as yourself.

We can hide behind rules as a way to excuse our behavior: “I was simply following procedure.” But to God, rules are the expression of compassion and justice. And, if that is so, we must not only learn to follow rules, but also to break them in the interests of love and common sense.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Point of the Game

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 3, 2011

The Point of the Game

                  “You tithe your mint, dill, and cumin, but have neglected the more important laws: justice, mercy, and faith.” 

                                                                                       Matthew 23:23

The Caribbean Cup soccer tournament in 1994 pitted Barbados against Grenada, with the winner going to the tournament finals. Barbados, however, not only had to win, but had to win by two goals to advance to the finals.

The tournament rules prompted one of the zaniest soccer games ever played. You’ll have to pay attention because I’m not going to repeat this.


The tournament committee ruled that, if the game ended in a tie, the game would go into sudden death. The first team to score in overtime is declared the winner. But, and this is important, the final goal would be counted as two points.

Okay, raise your hand if you’re with me so far.

Barbados was ahead, 2-0, when Grenada scored with minutes to go. Even if Barbados now won by one point, Grenada was headed for the finals.

But, with three minutes remaining, Barbados wasn’t even advancing the ball. Two defensive players calmly kicked the ball back and forth in front of their own goal, and then, to everyone’s surprise, a Barbados player kicked the ball into his own goal.

It took everyone a moment to realize what was happening. If play ended with the score tied, 2-2, the game would go into sudden death. If Barbados could then score the winning goal, they would be declared the winner by two points, and advance to the championship game.

Once Grenada grasped what had just happened, they realized that if they, too, scored a goal against themselves, they would lose the game by one point, but would advance to the finals.

The final minutes of regulation play were sheer madness. Grenada was desperately trying – not to score against their opponent – but against themselves. But Barbados was determined to keep Grenada from kicking the ball into its own net. This was no longer looking like what a soccer game was supposed to look like.

The game ended in a tie. In overtime, Barbados scored the tie-breaking goal and was declared the winner by two points.


Rules can have unintended consequences. The religious people of Jesus’ day tithed. No problem there. But, then, in the interests of being “super holy,” they began the practice of tithing everything – even their herb seeds.

Jesus wasn’t impressed by these extra rules because, while they were sitting on their bums counting out seeds and setting aside every tenth one for God, they were failing to be about the true life of God: helping the poor, showing mercy, and learning the life of faith.

When we make rules that God doesn’t make, we end up missing the point of the game.

                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)