I actually like rules.
In my early years, a preacher’s kid, there were some that might have called me “goody-two-shoes”. Where that particular description came from I have no idea, but it wasn’t flattering.
I think it comes back to my personality of being somewhat a perfectionist (ouch, it hurts to say that), and wanting to get things right. Wanting to please. Wanting to be liked.
Rule-keepers can easily shift to policing, and that isn’t always pretty either. One of my worst memories of this was in an uppity neighbourhood we once lived, where we shared a big house with my parents. We were up, they were down. (in the house, that is!) And someone down the street decided we had an illegal suite and reported us.
The day the city official arrived to investigate, we were all sitting outside, sharing a meal together, and it was very apparent that we all shared the house together.
But this blog isn’t about suites, illegal or not!
My mom had a lovely take-charge personality, and although she worked hard at fitting into “her role” as a pastor’s wife, she also took much leadership! And she said to me, more than once, that rules were only rules if they made sense. One late evening, we went to a convenience store together, and the parking lot was empty. She parked in the handicapped zone. I couldn’t believe it, and told her so. She couldn’t understand my chagrin.
We had other such conversations around canning and preserving… I was a “by-the-rule” gal, she did it the way she had done it for a hundred years, and no one had died yet…. ah yes, she lived to her own rules, and we all loved her.
Recently I wrote about compassion. As I was thinking about compassion, I realized that sometimes this involves breaking the rules. Because Compassion should be a compass for any rule! I remember talking to a Parking Lot attendant once, about a ticket someone had received in the hospital parking lot, and we were trying to get it voided.
We asked for mercy. And in all honesty, parking is a real challenge for those in a medical emergency. Compassion should rule!
We live within systems or bureaucracies which create rules to make things work. To keep us safe. To create order. But sometimes those rules have to be challenged! Or at least looked at on a case-by-case basis.
I was thinking of Jesus, who is the ultimate example of this. He lived with a lot of rule-keepers, the Saducees and Pharisees who did their best to keep all the rules and make sure everyone else did too.
But Jesus challenged that, saying he had come to free us. He healed on the Sabbath. He mingled with the poor and those society had discarded. He showed great compassion to the women in particular, who were often marginalized in those times. There is a lot of Gospel stories where he demonstrated that compassion should rule!
I love the fact that we can’t put the God who created us, who loves us, in a box of rules. This is not neat and tidy stuff, but a God who loves a messy world, who dares us to follow the steps of Jesus and show compassion to those who need it most.
And when Jesus was asked what were the greatest commands, he gave these very simple instructions: to love God with all our heart, soul and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves.
As I live out my life, it is good to refer back to those important rules, rules that trump everything. To seek God with all my heart. To live a life of love and compassion. And when I mess up, I can go to my Heavenly Father, and I am grateful for the grace and mercy I receive, always there for the asking.