Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse!
I bet you’ve heard that one before. In this country we started out with a few simple laws. The emigrants from England brought with them the Ten Commandments and the Magna Carta to guide them. They started out fairly simple.
Laws are intended to make things go smoothly and well for all in the society. Whenever you have more than one person, the need for law rears its head. I spent years as a law enforcement officer, and I saw how we live in a society that has proliferated laws and lawyers beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Congresspersons pass laws, agencies pass laws, cities and counties pass laws--all with virtually no input or overview and rarely publish them effectively so you know what to do. Once the laws are out there, you need courts to establish whether you really violated them or not. It is a huge and often very ineffective system. Some of the laws passed throughout history are pretty silly, too! One town said you could be fined if you wore a cowboy hat and didn’t own at least two cows.
The Jews at the time of Jesus had a similar problem. God had given them some basic commandments. Then he added a large amount of rules that would help them stay healthy (sort of like the Food and Drug Administration is supposed to do!) Other guidelines came along and pretty soon priests were making up rules about the length of you clothes and how far you could travel from your house on the Sabbath. (Their laws could get silly too. At one point they interpreted your house as one of your sandals dropped along the way so you could double the distance. Sound silly? Yeah, I thought so, too!)
Well, what is the point of all this rambling? Jesus came to make clear what God had intended. All these laws were focusing on the wrong outward things. Obedience to law was supposed to be an inward thing. It’s a matter of the heart. Simply stated (and even Jesus agreed) you should “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Two laws to sum it up, and if you needed any further clarification you could double check with the Ten Commandments. Overly simple for today’s society? Maybe a little. But, I think you get my point. We have replaced conscience and heart with an overly legalistic mindset.