What Matters More?

Leviticus 24:5-9 relates a Torah rule about worship protocol. The priests were to prepare a dozen loaves of fresh bread every week. They were to be placed on the golden table before Yahweh on the Sabbath. When the weekly replacement occurred, the priests could eat the bread being removed. The law was clear: no one but priests could devour the sacred Bread of the Presence.

During the period when King Saul was desperately trying to eliminate him, David was fleeing from him. When he came to the tabernacle, David asked the priest on duty for food. The priest said there was no “ordinary bread” on hand, only the holy bread that no one but priests could eat.

This is what happened: “So, since there was no other food available, the priest gave him the holy bread – the Bread of the Presence that was placed before the Lord in the tabernacle. It had just been replaced that day with fresh bread” (1 Samuel 21:6).

Jesus cited this episode and as precedent when his disciples were taken to task for violating Sabbath rules against preparing food on that holy day. He said this to his critics: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:23-27).

Rules serve people, not vice versa.

Every line of Scripture is Spirit-given and useful. Every teaching of the prophets and apostles is important. Covenant distinctions, doctrinal nuances, right interpretations – all are worth energy to discern and effort to implement. They are things revealed by God to those who seek him.

But back in the ranks of those of us who follow him in faith, there are legitimate differences of understanding. Not everybody sees the Bible alike on weighty issues of doctrine. Not everyone interprets the significance of a verb tense the same way. Or comes to the same conclusion about worship rules.

Sometimes the noise and rancor of those discussions create such a scene that the church becomes a spectacle before the watching (unbelieving!) world. And Christians lose credibility with those onlookers because we value being right over being in relationship. We often value being correct over being connected.

Len Sweet writes: “When he was practicing law, Abraham Lincoln was hired to sue someone over a $2.50 debt. He didn’t want to do it, but his client insisted that it was a matter of principle, even though the person being sued was a friend. So Lincoln asked for a fee of ten dollars, to be paid in advance. He then gave half to the defendant, who promptly paid his debt.”

Isn’t the cross of Christ supposed to function in a similar way for us? Isn’t that what Jesus taught in the Parable of Two Debtors? (Luke 7:36-50). Isn’t it time more of us took him seriously and showed that loving one another means more than strutting and preening about what bright scholars we are?