I’ve been doing some traveling lately and have therefore been subject to airport security. Of course, everybody is for better security, but the scene at most airport security check points could be something right out of Seinfeld.
Responding to the latest threat, we are now limited to liquids in bottles of less than 3 ounces enclosed in a quart size zip-lock bag. All you have is a fold over sandwich bag? Too bad, your shampoo will be confiscated. A half-full 4-once tube of toothpaste – not good enough. The rules are weird and virtually every checker interprets them differently. One time a sealed bottle of water is OK, the next time it is gone. An empty bottle? It depends on who is doing the checking. What started as a response to a real threat has turned into real silliness.
This is the type of situation Jesus faced. What started as following God’s laws had, by first century Palestine, turned into to a fiasco led by a political party called the Pharisees. A basic idea like honoring the Sabbath had turned into detailed rules about how much a person could lift or how far they could walk. Jesus preached against this idea of following rules to the “T” without thinking, or understanding the intent. Much of His ministry involved attacking the silly rules that were being inflicted on the people. Instead, He brought a message of grace and forgiveness. He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us in making choices based on knowing right from wrong, not a long list of complicated rules.
Today we call following a set of rules, to the exclusion of thinking, legalism. For example, if many lives have been ruined by gambling, it could be a sin to own a deck of cards. If dancing seems too sensuous, let’s ban dancing. In the book of Galatians, chapter 5, Paul spoke passionately against this kind of thinking. “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
As individuals, we can’t do much about confusing and conflicting airport security, building codes, or other bureaucratic red tape. But we can be careful how we live; embracing the freedom we have in Christ as citizens of the Kingdom of God, and the freedoms we do have as citizens of the USA.