As I was reading Luke 13 this week I was surprised at how we can become so rule-bound that we become a barrier to the things we ought to be doing. While I believe that structure has its place, sometimes our structure, rules and procedures keep us from fulfilling our mission. It really comes down to who the rules and structures are all about.
Fred Craddock tells a story of a benevolence fund given into his care at a small Tennessee church. The fund contained $100. They told him the fund was to be used at his discretion but could not be used to help people who had made poor financial decisions, people with drug/alcohol problems and people who we not working to earn a living. Fred said, 20 years later, as far as he knows the $100 is still intact.
In Luke 13 Jesus heals a woman bound by infirmity for 18 years. The church leaders are indignant because Jesus heals the woman on the Sabbath. They said, "God did his work in 6 days and rested on the sabbath so we should do the same." Their rules were very strict about every activity that was allowed or prohibited on the Sabbath. And if you violated the rules there was swift and certain punishment.
Here, and in other places in Scripture, Jesus reminds the rule-makers of several things. First, He tells them that healing happens when God directs and gives the healing (who are they to limit God's ability and desire to heal?). Second, they are treating their livestock (rescuing them from harm, giving them water) better than they are treating God's people. Third ... they are forgetting that the Sabbath is given for the benefit of God's people ... not for the rule-makers to lord over the people with a heavy yoke. Finally, they are forgetting the real definition of Sabbath.
Sabbath, as originally modeled by God during the creation, was a 7th day in which God "rested." This doesn't mean God laid back in a hammock and took a nap. It doesn't mean God went out fishing or embarked upon some leisurely activity. "Rest" as defined in the Hebrew means "completion." God had done what God had set out to do. He had stood back and said ... "It is good." In Like 13 Jesus steps back from helping a woman bound by her disease for 18 years. He sees her healed, just as God intended. I believe He might be thinking "It is good. I completed the Father's work in this woman. Now, on to teaching the religious leaders that they are not leaders but are impediments ... stumbling blocks to God's work in the people of God."
Remember ... they are God's rules for the benefit of God's people all for God's purpose.
That's my take! Randy