Devotion for the Week...
Nathan has a penchant for melodrama when he's injured. We are trying to teach him that, when he's hurt, it's okay to cry, but he doesn't need to screech so loud the whole neighbourhood can hear him. He also doesn't need to continue saying "ow" long after the scrape happens. A couple of times, fine, but not five minutes worth!
Last week, when I was changing bandages for him, I could have reminded him that 'ow-ing' repeatedly is not necessary. Instead, I considered the circumstances - he had taken a nasty fall off his bike (while doing a jump off a ramp - he's melodramatic and a daredevil!) and now he had two stitches in his shoulder. When I dabbed ever so gently to clean around the stitches, it hurt. In this case, the rules weren't quite right for the situation. The 'ow-ing' continued, though I have to admit he did fairly well and the melodrama was limited.
One day Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus simply said to him, "'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.' At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked" (John 5:8,9). Can you imagine? For 38 years this man couldn't get up on his own. He couldn't walk anywhere and now he's instantly healed and instead of spending all his days lying on a mat he can pick up the mat and carry it home - or toss it in the nearest garbage can if he'd rather never see it again!
Can you picture for a moment how excited this man must have been? How he maybe jumped and danced a little, testing out his newly healed legs? Or maybe he walked with his head down, staring at his feet in amazement. Did he laugh as he walked? Was he running home to tell his family what had happened? The Bible is often a little lacking in details like this, but I think it's safe to say this was no ordinary, ho-hum walk.
Enter the rules. The Jewish leaders in Jesus' day had a hard time letting go of their
rules. They weren't good at considering whether they should maybe relax
the rules a little considering the circumstances. They saw the man carrying his mat and immediately pounced on him. "'It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.'" (v. 10).
The Sabbath. There were lots of rules about what could and could not be done on the Sabbath and apparently carrying a mat was on the 'don't' list. But seriously, this man was walking for the first time in 38 years!! Who cares about the mat in his hands? Shouldn't everyone who sees him be celebrating with him because of this amazing thing God has done in his life?
The man even tried to explain the situation to them: " 'The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk,' " (v. 11) but they completely missed the point. "So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” (v. 12). They were too focused on their rules to even hear the part about the man being made well, to see what God had done for him. Sad isn't it?
Unfortunately, we can be a bit hung up on our rules too, can't we? Whether it's the language a person uses, the music they listen to or the clothes they wear, we each have our own rules as to what is appropriate. If someone doesn't follow our rules, we can be quick to point out the error of their ways and suggest they change their behaviour.
But do we always consider the circumstances? Do we look carefully before we jump in with our rules? If someone is coming to church in clothes we think aren't quite appropriate, we might be quick to tell her she needs to dress differently. But if we take the time to talk with her, maybe we'd find out that she's been learning about God for the first time and now she wants to accept Jesus into her life. Then we could celebrate with her instead of criticizing her! Or maybe she's hurting, and we could pray with her. Sometimes the rules aren't the most important thing.
There is a place for rules, absolutely. But next time we're tempted to pounce on someone and insist they follow our rules immediately, let's pause for a moment to consider the circumstances. Maybe they're hurting and need our understanding, or maybe they're celebrating and we can join in with them.