“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27
Can you imagine a football or baseball game without rules, a business or organization without policies, or society absent laws and regulations? The purpose of laws, regulations, rules and policies, after all, is to provide structure and order. Without them it would be chaos. But while rules, regulations, laws and policies do an overall effective job controlling human behaviors within reasonable boundaries, the one thing they cannot do is form or change a person’s character; for character comes from the heart, and is represented by behavior beyond simply abiding by the letter of the law.
My least favorite duty back in my Wall Street days was being responsible for ensuring everyone within my scope of influence abided by the rules and regulations, being a policeman of sorts. I hated that. But it wasn’t keeping people within the boundaries of the rules that was so difficult; rather the challenge was that certain people mistook abiding by the letter of the law with actually doing what is right. Not the same.
Ironically it was an “expert in the law” who questioned Jesus about the most important commandment, for which he already knew the correct answer. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself,” the man quoted from Deuteronomy. But being a strict rule follower he challenged Jesus further to clarify who exactly is one’s neighbor. That’s when Jesus launched into perhaps his most famous parable, the story of the Good Samaritan. We all know it well. A man was lying beside the road half dead after being beaten and robbed. A priest and a Levite each passed by without offering help – perfectly legal according to the Law. But a Samaritan came along and stopped to render aid – doing what is right, beyond simply abiding by the letter of the law.
Unfortunately, we need laws, rules, regulations and policies to provide structure and order, and we can only expect more to be forthcoming. The only other remedy is character – doing what is right, beyond simply abiding by the letter of the law.