Fences Around the Law

Because the Pharisees believed that a person could go to Hell for breaking any of the 613 commandments in the Old Testament, they (along with the lawyers, teachers, and scribes) made more rules, which some called a “fence” around the law. The logic being: if you can fall into Hell for gathering sticks on a Sabbath, then let’s make a rule about not even walking more than x number of steps on a sabbath. Just in case.
Jesus comes along and just doesn’t give a hoot about their traditions. He walks through them like a bulldozer through barbed wire.
Furthermore, he says:
1) You have totally missed the spirit of the commands (which were supposed to be about love)
2) You teach as precepts of God the commandments of men (Mark 7:6)
3) You tie up heavy burdens on people
4) You very often use tradition to even disregard commandments entirely
5) You measure your spirituality by your ability to follow a lot of external, showy rules.
They seemed to think that the more rules the better: but Jesus seemed to think the opposite.
….so question…
What are some of the “fences around the law” that you were raised with? Let’s make a list! I’ll start:
…the Bible says “Don’t get drunk,” so tradition says, “don’t ever touch alcohol.”
…the bible says “don’t cross-dress,” so tradition says, “women must wear dresses” (even when they are outdated and fairly impractical at times, especially for sports!)
…tradition says rock music is bad. But nobody can seem to find the verse for it.
…there is one fairly confusing verse about men having short hair (despite many long-haired dudes in the Old Testament) and so good Christian men don’t have hair past their ears.
…now your turn…
…what “fences” did you see around the law, growing up? What did it feel like to have so many rules?

The Dangers of “Biblicism”

Reading the Bible, all by yourself, with no commentaries and no input from others is the ultimate in confirmation bias. A person can conveniently ignore or explain away anything that challenges them, while finding “biblical support” for all of their personal prejudices and ideas. If no support is given directly from scriptures, the person can simply say, “the Holy Spirit told me…” and put some very outlandish spin on a verse. It happens all the time!
“Bible teachers” like this can be very attractive. “Wow, he only quotes the Bible!” “Wow, he is self-taught! He wasn’t corrupted by some dirty seminary!” “Wow, God seems to speak to him so much!” …but the person isn’t really speaking to them about Gods way, but their own private ideas, wrapped in Biblical language. The effects of such teachers can be devastating: among other things, it can make it seem like anybody can make the Bible say anything that they want. Which of course, they can. So how can we avoid this confirmation bias? We cannot. We are only human. That is why we need one another. “Let one or two speak, and the rest pass judgment.” “But the Bereans were more noble, because after Paul spoke, they searched the Scriptures, to see if these things were so.” “*Study* to show yourself as a workman approved, able to *accurately* handle the word if God.” “You Pharisees…teach as doctrines the ideas of men…” “see to it that no one takes you captive through the…basic principles of men…”
The believing community is:
1) A local church of people who can respond in some way to the “teacher.” If the teacher is never told that they were wrong, and never revises their views, they have no such community
2) Commentaries and other pastors. You don’t know it all! The Bible wasn’t written in your language — or your millennia! You need help understanding some things! Be humble enough to ask for and receive help!
3) The wider faith community. Not every good Christian agrees with you. Some have very good Biblical reasons for what they believe. Learn from them! Learn to sit with the fact that there are more than one way to see many issues. Gradually, you will begin to see that while *some* issues in the Bible are black and white, many are grey. And some things you were taught to believe aren’t even in the Bible at all!
…as you emerge from under the dictatorial cloud of one narrow minded teacher, into the light and colour of the family of God, you may begin to find that the Bible is more like a grand story, where we can all find meaning and purpose and direction for our own lives. It is less like an instruction manual, telling us how to conform to the ideas and biases of one narrow minded “Bible teacher.”