When RULES Get in the Way

Tom Harding

The problem for me was, I got out a lot when I was young. I learned to sort of like getting out. If you got out, then you didn’t have to play the game anymore. It was a very difficult game to play, because who could do everything Jesus says?

- Andy Stanley

“You know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work in real life—uh, Christianity.”

- Homer Simpson


- These folks have trouble trusting God.


- These folks keep the rules and think they are better than you for doing so.


"I am going to do what I want to do. Nobody tells me what to do.”


"I will follow God by being the best rule keeper God has ever seen. I will then become one of God’s favored ones. Billy Graham. Mother Teresa. Homer Simpson. Me.”

Mark 2:27–28

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

Mark 3:1–6

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. 

It is easy to judge the sin and the sinner when you don’t know their name.

Mark 3:1–6

He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So, the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. 

Rebellious heart

- Discover their trust in God.

Self-righteous hearts

- Discover their need of God. 


“Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God; the proud, the avaricious (greedy), the self-righteous, are in that danger.”

- C.S. Lewis

“Everyone has someone to look down on. Not us. We are at the low. Our families, they feel shame for us. No mother anywhere looks at her little girl and says, “Honey when you grow up I want you to be a good prostitute.” Most places, we’re breaking the law. Believe me, we know how people feel about us. People call us names: whore, slut, hooker, harlot. We feel it too. We’re the bottom. And sometimes when you’re at the low, you cry for help. So, when Jesus comes, we respond. Maybe Jesus meant that.”

- Philip Yancey | recounting a conversation with a prostitute

Luke 19:10

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

It is impossible to follow Jesus and not end up around lost and broken people.

“Before God, we all stand on level ground; murderers and temper-throwers, adulterers and lusters, thieves and coveters. We are all desperate and that is in fact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God. Having fallen from the absolute ideal, we have nowhere to land, but in the safety net of absolute grace.”

- Philip Yancey