“Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” – Acts 6:1-4

There are unwritten rules that people have been following for centuries. In 2017, we have many such rules that everyone knows need to be followed. They are seen as necessary for our well-being and are common to all. It is both irritating and frustrating when people break these rules: things like cutting in line at a restaurant, or talking during a movie, or people who block the fire lane while they run into Walmart real quick. Then there are safety rules like don’t drive through red lights or not following too close to the car ahead of you. As a pastor, I try not to break the rules, unless following the rules hinders my ability to reach people with the love of Christ.

Jesus broke the traditional rules on a regular basis. Touching lepers, gathering grain on the sabbath, healing on the sabbath, talking to a  Samaritan woman, letting a prostitute wash His feet with His hair to name a few. Then there were the tax collectors. The tax collectors in Jesus’ day were reviled because no one likes to pay money to the government, especially when the government is an oppressive regime like the Roman Empire.  Tax collectors in the Bible were Jews who were working for the hated Romans. These individuals were seen as turncoats, traitors to their own countrymen. Rather than fighting the Roman oppressors, the tax collectors were helping them—and enriching themselves at the expense of their fellow Jews. Yet there was Jesus, eating with them. This was a no-no.  This was ignoring rule number one. Ignoring rule number one and most others got Jesus into a lot of trouble with the rule keepers.

But it just wasn’t the rule keepers. Think about it from the perspective of Jews living when Jesus walked the earth. I doubt we can imagine the shock waves these rule breaking actions sent through the people of that time. But we are talking about the Son of God. Yes, Jesus broke some societal taboos. But His rule breaking demonstrated that He looked beyond culture to people’s hearts. Whereas the Pharisees wrote people off simply because of their profession or their past, Jesus looked past all that and saw their need. Jesus is usually breaking some rule – cultural, social, even religious – when he is offering the most grace.

Which raises the question, can I love people, really love people, if I’m not breaking the rules?

Would I have second guessed Jesus when He went to a tax collector’s house? Am I more afraid of breaking the rules or failing to love people?

Loving people is messy. Sometimes, in order to love someone with the grace-upon-grace love of Jesus it means breaking the rules. People are dying, literally, as they wait for us to break some of the rules in order to love them and by loving them point them to the cross. The question should always be before us. Do we love our rules more than we love our fellow Christians or those far from the heart of God? 

Discussion Questions

  1. Are you a rule follower or a rule breaker? Why do you fall into either category?    
  2. How do rules and people’s expectations go togther?
  3. Do you believe you need to break rules to: Strengthen your relationship with God? Fight the battles Jesus fought? Experience the true purpose of your life? Boldly pursue your God given dream?