Jesus did not come to subvert the law, he came to fulfil it. But he did come to overthrow and break down the the religious and rigid interpretations that people had built up around the law, and the practices they had added to it.
The Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7) is full of grace and wisdom. It expresses the spirit of the law and is a glorious alternative to the rigid letter of the law, and the attitude that prevailed among the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Jesus challenges the mindset of “this is the way we’ve always done it”. He isn’t scared to break the rules because he knows they have been misused.
Examples of Jesus’ “rule breaking” include:
- healing a man’s hand on the sabbath (Matt 12:9)
- upturning the tables in the temple (Matt 21:12).
Jesus challenges motives, hypocrisy, dishonesty, the valuing of rules before people, and the rigid legalistic interpretation of the law.
He brings about change, makes people’s lives better, and sets the example of a more compassionate, kinder way to live.
We can follow Jesus’ example by challenging ourselves, our motives, and our shadow behaviour. We can help others with their own blind spots. We can challenge systems, regulations and organisations that don’t treat people well. We can petition the government as well as praying for them with compassion and kindness.
We can ask:
- Is “Because we’ve always done it that way” still a good choice.
- Is “These are what the rules say” still the best way of doing things?
- Is “We don’t have the power to change things?” true.
Jesus used grace, truth, wisdom, compassion, and love to bring challenge and change. He has given us those very gifts so that we can do the same.