Righteousness beyond rules

Pastor’s Pulpit

by Pastor Brian Young

Rules exist all around us. They are important and necessary for functioning together on this planet. Rules for games, rules for operating machinery, rules for driving. In ethics and morality, rules are crucial for right behavior and cooperation. We all agree that rules are essential in life, like it or not.

But did you know that you and I actually prefer rules? This may sound surprising. Rules exist all around us, and we often complain about them, rebel against them, and even flagrantly disobey them. Yet, we prefer them. How is that?

Many years ago, I served on the volunteer fire department in our community. I remember like it was yesterday, hours of training one evening in how to operate the water pump on one of our large fire engines. As the engineer on a structure fire, a firefighter must know how to regulate the flow of water from the tanker truck to the hoses. The lives of fellow firefighters depend upon adequate flow of water. Many variables come into play– elevation, the number of hoses, the water capacity of the truck – and the age and style of the truck’s instrument panel! This last variable was my nemesis. Each truck on the department was different in its panel arrangement of valves, buttons, levers, and gauges – depending upon the age and size of the truck. Just when you knew one instrument panel on one truck, the next truck had a completely different arrangement.

So at training that one summer evening, I was reeling at the instrument panel, trying to remember the right sequence of priming the pump, monitoring gauges, and opening valves for every fire scenario. And I knew that each truck would be different. Lots of rules to learn. Just show me what to do and when to do it. I wanted rules to remember, and quick. Help!

But my trainer that evening was wiser than this. He told me that, rather than teaching me the “rule of sequence” for operating the pump on each truck, he must  ground me in the principle of how a pump works. Once I know the principle, then the instrument panel, number of hoses, and other variables may change, but I will still know what to do, on every truck. The why behind the what!

It was sound advice. Essential advice. Profound advice. But I found myself resisting it at first. Learning the principle of pumps took more time that evening. I had to listen, concentrate, make vital mental connections with different scenarios and sequences. It seemed to be a lot easier, in the short run, just to learn a rule for that particular truck. Show me what lever to pull and when. But in the long-run, learning the principle would save time, energy… and lives!

The moral life is so much like this. We just want a simple rule for behavior. Just like with the water pump instrument panel, rules are valid to a point. The problem? Every moral scenario is different. We need the principles behind the rules. So much of what Jesus Christ taught us was precisely this – pointing to the godly kingdom principles behind moral rules. This is what righteous living is about. It is a joy-motivated, faith-fueled determination to love God and love people beyond ourselves.

A timely example? Giving. Jesus taught us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We know it is good. So we want to make a rule out of it – giving a percentage or a dollar amount, and then we are done. It is far more probing, more loving, to ask ourselves if we are sacrificially generous. This is the principle behind giving. A generous spirit seeks diligently for various ways to give – of time, attention, gifts, and money.

This Thanksgiving season, please partner with us to give generously, thoughtfully, joyfully, to those needing a little extra help right here in Coal Creek Canyon. We will be holding our annual holiday food basket drive a little earlier this year (Saturday, November 23rd). Look for various collection points around Coal Creek Canyon for canned food and other helpful non-perishables. Your generosity can be a righteous expression beyond the minimum “rule” of giving…

Holiday Food Basket Collection Points (For Donating Non-Perishable Food Items)

–Carl’s Corner

–Coal Creek Canyon K-8 School

–Kwik Mart

–Coal Creek Coffee

–Whispering Pines Church

–Chapel in the Hills

–Spirit of the Mountain Lutheran Church (CCCIA Hall, Sunday mornings)

–Coal Creek Catholic Community (CCCIA Hall, Sunday mornings)

–Calvary Chapel (Nederland)

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