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…the bible says “don’t cross-dress,” so tradition says, “women must wear dresses” (even when they are outdated and fairly impractical at times, especially for sports!)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?

Obey thy Parents…?

An important key in Biblical interpretation is distinguishing between principles and “magic formulas.” It is a good principle that if we raise our kids right, they will turn out well. That usually works: and it is certainly better than the alternative. However, Proverbs 22:6 is not a magic formula. It’s not telling parents: 1) if you find just the right technique, your kids will be perfect, or, 2) if your kids “destroy” their lives, that was because you didn’t get the formula right. It’s a principle: love and guide your kids. It is important for their future well-being. As a principle, it is good wisdom.
Another principle is that if one honours parents and authority figures, and obeys them when appropriate, life will go well for them. This is good wisdom: you won’t get far in life by disrespecting every authority figure you find. However, it does not mean: 1) honouring is equivalent to obeying, 2) adult children need to keep obeying their parents, 3) children who do not obey will be cursed, and the universe will conspire to destroy them, 4) children who make adult decisions and have an adult life apart from their parents are rebelling or dishonouring them.
As a principle, Ephesians 6:3 is good. But as a “magic formula,” this same passage can be used to try to cross boundaries (which are already tough to navigate) between adult children and their parents: as though parents should still be making decisions for their adult children — sometimes even when they are married! This teaching very unhelpfully goes against the teaching (established in Genesis 3) that adult children should “leave” their parents and “cleave” to their spouse (or, just leave if they will remain single). It even makes some people feel like they will be “cursed with bad luck” if they go against their parents: a very unbiblical idea. It places undue pressure on the parents, and can be weaponized to place an incredible amount of control on the children.
Taken this way, this passage of ancient wisdom can be turned into a powerful tool of spiritual abuse.