If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

Matthew 12 : 7 – 8

Rules can be a really positive thing. The Sabbath for example gave the people a regularly break from work long before the invention of the weekend. But when rules are enforced for their own sake they can easily become oppressive.

Rules have to be tempered by mercy. Whereas rules can become strict and rigid, mercy allows there to be flexibility and compassion. And mercy keeps the spirit of the rules alive. The rest day of the Sabbath was never intended to prevent the sick from being healed or the hungry from eating. It was mean as a time for everyone in the community to rest and be refreshed. By being so strict with the Sabbath, the religious leaders of the day were preventing those most vulnerable from enjoying what the Sabbath was meant for.

God never intended for us to become uncaring enforcers of the rules, or people who find their status and worth in the things we can sacrifice. God intends for us to be people defined by our mercy and compassion for others. And sometimes that means being flexible with the rules, because ultimately love is more important.

Prayer: Merciful God, I am sorry that sometimes I am more interested in being right than being kind. Help me to know when to hold the rules a little less tightly and when I need to be more flexible.

Action: What rules will you encounter today? Have a think about the purpose of those rules, and if there are times when to fulfil that purpose you have to be a little flexible in applying that rule.

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