Principle represents the true character of an individual. It is designed for the person created in God’s image. Rules and regulations were designed for a fallen man, due to the sin of Adam. A man of principle, as portraying the attributes of God, cannot be controlled and does not need supervision.
Christianity is divided. There are those insisting that God’s laws ought to be obeyed according to Moses. Yet others insist that the Law is done away with, as having been substituted by grace, according to the New Covenant. Both viewpoints may not necessarily be wrong; depending on interpretations.
The problem lies in failure to understand the role of Jesus. Everything ought to be centered on Jesus’ viewpoint, so that, if Jesus’ mission was clearly understood, whatever confusion, apparent or not, would easily be handled. But principle is superior to rules and regulations.
A man of principle cannot be controlled by rules and regulations. He represents order, wherever he is found. Jesus represented an ideal person, created in God’s image. His behavior focused on solving problems, more than punishing the wrong-doers.
If anyone wants to appreciate the significance of being in God’s image, the only model is Jesus, whose behavior was not controlled by rules and regulations. For instance, below is one of the interesting conversations between Jesus and Simon Peter, when considering the standing regulations of that time:
“When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself” (Matthew 17:24-27) (ESV).
The drachma tax originated from the Law given to Moses and this had originally been intended for the upkeep of the Jewish Temple. God could not have instituted this type of tax without special reason. In line with keeping God’s laws, the Jews needed to be strict in keeping what was in the law books.
Remember, also, that in His first lecture to His disciples, Jesus had said that nothing of the law would be tempered with, until Heaven and earth had passed away (Matthew 5:17-20). But Jesus represented what was new, as opposed to the Old Covenant.
Bear in mind that there was nothing illegal, or wrong about the drachma Tax, as it was instituted by God, among various other Jewish Laws. But Jesus questions the validity of keeping this law, among those following Him. Being Christ’s follower meant forsaking everything else, but looking to Jesus only.
Just for the benefit of those unfamiliar with most of the Jewish laws, below is how the Tax law had been instituted to the Israelites, as rightfully maintained by the Jews:
“Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord‘s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord‘s offering to make atonement for your lives. You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives” (Exodus 30:13-16) (ESV).
Indeed, it would have been considered wrong to violate one of God’s Laws, as appearing among various other laws, as binding for God’s people. But let us carefully follow Jesus’ conversation with Peter, concerning this important statute.
Questioning Peter, concerning the necessity to observe this Law, could have been another reason to spark some controversy between Jesus and His accusers. Jesus knew about that. However, as King, Jesus was not under any obligation to pay the Temple tax.
But in Matthew 17:27 Jesus decides to fulfill the requirement; not out of obligation. This was for the sake of not offending anyone. Jesus had to perform a miracle to ensure that the required tax would be paid, accordingly.
Those committing their lives to Jesus would no longer be under the dictates of the Law, as bothersome to the legalistic Jews. Those followers would take every instruction from Jesus, disregarding the the standing regulations.
The Jews were right in questioning the Man they knew only as the child of Joseph and Mary. Had they known who Jesus was, they would have obviously realized how stupid their question would have been. The Jews didn’t know who Jesus was.
As King, Jesus had not been obliged to be under the dictates of the Law. His compliance to pay the tax was out of principle, as fully understanding those ignorant of His position. Jesus had to pay the tax out of principle, rather than out of obligation, in order to maintain the most important aspect of human relations—peace.
This is like someone preferring to lose an argument, just for the purpose of maintaining peace. This would be after noticing that doing so, would not harm anyone. A person of principle cares more about maintaining peace than his/her own welfare.
I was recently moved by one gentleman, intervening to solve an altercation between a conductor and a commuter. The quarrel had been over the conductor insisting that he had not received the required fee from the accused commuter, who also maintained that he had done so.
The gentleman politely asked how much was involved and simply paid the amount in dispute. It became unnecessary for the conductor and that commuter to continue arguing, over an issue that could have led to a fist-fight, or murder.
The gentleman had not been familiar with either of the two, involved in the argument. All he sought to do was to solve the problem that could have led to violence. His desire was simply to contribute towards the restoration of peace for the benefit of everyone in that mini-bus.
Here was a man of principle. That person was not governed by rules and regulations. He simply recognized his role, as a peace-maker. Such people enjoy doing so, without even expecting a ‘thank you’ from anyone. See [Created to solve, not to create problems].
The disciples of Jesus were not ordinary people, governed by rules and regulations. They were to be viewed as God’s children, expected to live by God’s will. Their thoughts would be linked to the mind of God.
For instance, you cannot tell God’s child not to kill, or not to violate any of the codified laws. Being of principle, that person would naturally be thinking like God. I suppose the apostle Paul confused most of those who were, either obsessed in law-keeping or being under grace:
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all; that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people; that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) (ESV).
Paul was not obsessed with rules and regulations, but with the concern for peace, which would grant him access to project the gospel. That is another example of a man of principle. Such people do not look at how wrong other people are, but how best they can serve, for everyone’s benefit.
They do not necessarily focus more on their kinsmen. They are the agents of peace, across the world. The most interesting thing is that such people may not even be familiar with Scriptures. They may actually not be recognized as ‘Christians’. Jesus Christ recognized them as sons of Peace (Luke 10:6-7).
Our present day Christianity is governed according to rules and regulations, as determined by those in authority. The focus is more on those who violate the doctrinal rules than those who seek the restoration of peace across the world.
Because of such authoritarians’ viewpoints, peace is expected to come, only according to the standards codified in those rules and regulations. Anything good, done outside the codified rules and regulations, cannot be recognized. It is the certification that measures standards, giving credence, ahead of everything else.
Interestingly, such Christian leaders can be so good at giving sermons about how hypocritical the Jews were, in Jesus’ time. Yet they fail to see how hypocritical they would be in their behavior, themselves.
This is the nature of human behavior. It sees faults with other people, but finding it difficult to see fault within self. While a man of principle can also see faults with other people, he/she gets preoccupied with how best to help the erring people. Jesus had to die in the process of helping the erring people.
While there can be several people that can be used as model for living a life of principle, none can match Jesus. But the greatest obstacle to the gospel are rules and regulations, as known to govern Christianity across the world.
Among Christians, there is mudslinging between those preaching grace against those preaching law-keeping. But both groups have rules and regulations that they impose on their followers, who sheepishly follow, in fear of being condemned to hell.
Such rules are used as standards. Leaders give themselves positions of being the shepherds to those assumed to be ignorant. The only sad thing is that this appears as what will continue, until Jesus comes. See [Unpacking the myth about Law and grace].
I am aware that the proponents of rules and regulations can never forgive people who write or say things projected in this article. But the followers of Jesus ought not to be surprised. Such is the condition that has entrapped humanity, since the time of Adam. Only a small number of takers will understand.
On matters of principle, we are on our normal senses. But on matters of rules and regulations we remain in prison-wood of insanity. It took the miracle of Jesus to present the model of what is required, so that normalcy can now prevail among those who truthfully obey Jesus’ instructions.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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