My friend proudly follows his religious path and speaks openly about his rigorous Jewish faith. He doesn’t work on the Sabbath and takes all Jewish holidays off to be with his family. But he doesn’t seem to follow any of the other rules. Bacon, crab, and dairy cooked with meat are fine. He uses elevators and cars on the Sabbath and doesn’t attend worship.
Of course, it’s not just him. I have other friends in other faiths making similar choices. I know Christians from non-drinking sects who abstain at home but indulge in restaurants or when traveling. I know Muslim people who observe rules about food and prayer in some places but not others. And then there’s me, a prime violator. I eagerly set new rules for body, mind, and soul that I practice religiously until I break the newly minted decrees, sometimes within 24 hours. I vow to treat others like Jesus would and fail miserably.
I used to think these behaviors were hypocritical—or just insincere. But the people I described are so kind, caring, and patient. They are loving to family, neighbors, and colleagues. I hope they describe me as loving, too. What does Paul want the early church—and the rest of us—to see about judging what matters most? Could we view rules as steppingstones leading us to faith rather than the equivalent of faith?
In Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Richard Rohr explains that as we grow spiritually mature, our relationship to rules will change: “Daily life now requires prayer and discernment more than knee-jerk responses toward either the conservative or liberal end of the spectrum…Law is still necessary, of course, but it is not your guiding star or even close. It has been wrong and cruel too many times.”
The guiding star God gives us, through Christ, and then the Spirit, offers a life that law alone cannot provide.
How is Christ helping you discern the right response to a situation?
God, may Christ’s life and your Spirit be the guidance we embrace. Amen.