God has gradually begun speaking to me through increasingly obscure means–increasingly non-churchy means. A couple examples: over a year ago it was through a leadership video I helped produce that featured some of Michigan’s top executives; weeks ago it was through an article I read on the author of the book Fight Club; a month or two ago, it was during a viewing of the Matrix. I could go on.
But most recently, however, it came during an obsessive bout of watching episodes from the second season of the hit TV show 24. It’s pretty much the only TV show I watch other than sports. And I don’t even watch it on TV–I bought the season on DVD.
Similar to Fight Club and The Matrix (but not nearly as extreme), it contains its share of violence and “roughness.” Jack Bauer is the main character and he’s a government employee who works for the Counter-Terrorist Unit. And he’s a rebel in every manner of the word: he does whatever it takes to get the job done, even if that means breaking the rules now and then…and now and then some more.
Jack’s life epitomizes observing the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. And that’s what I love most about him. It’s what Jesus did all the time. But in doing so, Jesus ironically enough fulfilled the law, not abolished it.
The Old Testament is filled with rules and regulations which, from what I understand, were mostly established to help Israel function as a society and keep it healthy. They wouldn’t transform its heart and redeem it from sin. So when Jesus came on the scene and started (seemingly) casting aside some longstanding traditions, people were up-in-arms.
But Jesus pointed out that the greatest commandments revolve around love, not laws. Love is the trump card for Jesus just as justice is the trump card for Jack. Sometimes things that are written as “rules” must be “broken” for the sake of a higher calling.
Jack takes people hostage, he kills witnesses, he lies, cheats, steals, betrays…whatever. And much of it is against CTU “protocol”–the standard by which field agents are to abide. But he’s doing it for the good of the country. He’s following a “greater commandment.”
Jack ticks off most of the law keepers–the Pharisees of 24. But one man who has become a big fan of his is President David Palmer. And because Jack has earned the respect and trust of the President, he need not worry about breaking a rule here and there to get the President’s work done. Because he’ll be pardoned.
I’m certainly not saying we should cast our moral convictions aside and take up lives of unruliness and debauchery. And I’m certainly not endorsing Jack Bauer’s actions as praiseworthy. But one of the points I’m trying to make is that following Christ is certainly not about following rules.
The Sermon on the Mount is often viewed as Jesus’ amendment to the Old Testament “constitution” (aka The Ten Commandments). Dallas Willard doesn’t think so. Rather than viewing those remarkable teachings as additions to an already long to-do list, think of them as the fruit produced from a life lived in love.
Love is Christ’s focus, just as protecting the United States is Jack Bauer’s. The Law and the Prophets hinge on love.
So, maybe rather than checking your thoughts, motives and actions against a list of do’s and don’ts, check them against love. When it passes through that filter, it will automatically fall into the right column.